Lawyers concerned for health of PNG detainee

20th Apr 2017

The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has today expressed serious concerns regarding the health of an asylum seeker in PNG who has had his refugee application rejected.

“We are very concerned about reports we have received regarding serious injuries of an asylum seeker being held in Port Moresby,” ALA Spokesperson and barrister, Greg Barns, said today.

“We understand that he has not received any medical attention or even basic pain relief for many days, after sustaining injuries from self-harm. The injuries he is reported to be suffering from include head injuries and cuts to his wrist and hands. There are fears he may have internal injuries as well. He needs a doctor to assess his condition.

“If that isn’t bad enough, he is also reportedly being held in a highly unsanitary prison cell, with what looks like faeces on the floor and walls. With open wounds, this is a serious infection risk.

“The reason this man is in Papua New Guinea in the first place is because the Australian government sent him there. It cannot now wash its hands of him and allow him to languish for days after being seriously injured. According to reports, however, it is the Department of Immigration and Border Protection that has delayed medical treatment. Instead they are seeking to deport him as soon as possible,” said Mr Barns.

Mr Barns noted that almost 12 months ago – on April 26 – the PNG Supreme Court found that this asylum seeker along with all others detained at Manus Island by Australia and Papua New Guinea were unlawfully held and the Centre was ordered to close.  However Australia has not complied with the Court ruling.

The Work Health and Safety Act contains clear obligations which apply to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in how it cares for refugees and asylum seekers, even where their refugee claims have been denied.

“The Department must not put the health and safety of people at risk as a result of its activities, under Australian law. This obligation cannot be transferred to any other organisation or government. Preventing someone with potentially serious injuries from being treated by a doctor appears to directly breach this obligation. A doctor must be permitted to examine and treat this asylum seeker immediately,” said Mr Barns.

Tags: Migration law Asylum seekers and refugees Greg Barns