A Manus Island asylum seeker who begged Malcolm Turnbull to spare him from deportation is set to be sent back to Lebanon in the next 24 hours, despite having suffering serious injuries and fearing for his safety in his homeland.
Azzam el Sheikh has been on Manus for nearly four years, after attempting to reach Australia by boat in 2013. He recently received a negative determination on his refugee application, and was marked for deportation. Police have tried to remove him from the island twice, once in late March and again in early April, but Azzam resisted and was injured. He has been told that he will soon be deported for good, likely within the next day.
He was taken to a local police station, and has remained there since, claiming to have suffered injuries to his neck, back and hands. He also claimed he had been denied medical attention, and not even given a painkiller.
It was in the police station he filmed a video, where he addresses Prime Minister Turnbull personally, asking for assistance. The video is shot in what appears to be a filthy prison cell, with stained walls and a disgusting toilet.
On Wednesday, Azzam told HuffPost Australia he had finally been given medical attention, being taken to a clinic for x-rays and other tests. Azzam claimed he had been told by guards that the medical checks were precautionary and to ensure he was fit to be deported. He said the clinic visit was "to check I won't die in the sky, not to give me medicine".
"Things don't look normal. Especially my kidneys but not sure yet. I can't move my left side and my legs was really swollen for a long time. They not check it at all," he told HuffPost Australia in a message.
"They check the only part that could kill me. They just said 'we gonna check your health and send you back to Lebanon', nothing else."
In a statement, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection distanced itself from any link to the deportation.
"These are matters for the Government of PNG. The Australian Border Force has no role in the physical removal of non-refugees from PNG, or the detention of, or services to, those individuals whilst being detained or in custody by PNG Authorities," a spokesperson said.
Azzam said he feared being sent back to Lebanon.
"I'm not waiting here four years because I like the rice," he said.
"You wouldn't wait here for months if you don't have a strong reason. I've asked them to leave me in PNG, it isn't about [living in] a rich country."
It's morally reprehensible for any civilised country to deport a person who is clearly suffering both mental and physical illness to a significant degree.Australian Lawyers Association's Greg Barns
Greg Barns, a barrister and spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Association, told HuffPost Australia that deporting someone with serious health concerns, and who fears persecution in their homeland should they be deported, may breach human rights protocols.
Australia labeled 'rogue state' for Manus deportations https://t.co/FbnAyKkkT5— Greg Barns (@BarnsGreg) April 25, 2017
"It's certainly inconsistent with Australia's international obligations under the refugee convention but also inconsistent with a nation that subscribes to the rule of law, to forcibly deport a person in circumstances where you are reckless as to whether that person faces punishment of a severe kind, torture or death on return to their country of origin," he said.
"It's morally reprehensible for any civilised country to deport a person who is clearly suffering both mental and physical illness to a significant degree. In this case, we have knowledge that doctors in Port Moresby took the view that he was unfit to travel, and it appears they've simply ignored that advice."
Australian officials often respond to media questions around such topics that they are the business of PNG (in a previous statement to HuffPost Australia on Azzam, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said "these are matters for the Government of PNG"), and did again in this case. However, Barns disputed that claim.
"Australia has enormous influence over the movement of people on Manus Island, we're a very hands-on player in PNG," he said.
"We have an enormous influence over the way PNG deals with asylum seekers on Manus Island," he said.
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