POLITICS

Diarrhoea, Filth And Sickness Ravage Manus Island Refugee Camp

'Preventable deaths seem not only inevitable but imminent'.

21/11/2017 1:00 PM AEDT | Updated 21/11/2017 1:29 PM AEDT

Refugees in the decommissioned detention facility on Manus Island are battling diarrhoea and mental distress, replacing medication with endless cups of coffee and being forced to drink and bathe in salt water as their resistance to leave the centre stretches into a fourth week.

The Lombrum facility officially closed on October 31, with power, water, food and medical care cut off. Three weeks later, more than 400 refugees remain inside the centre, resisting orders from Australian and Papua New Guinean authorities to move to three new facilities on the island.

The refugees and advocates say the new centres are not suitable, with reports that electricity has been knocked out at the new Hillside Haus facility, and claims that local Manus citizens were responsible for the power outages.

GetUp!
The West Lorengau facility

"Last night some local men went inside the [Hillside] camp there and turned off the generators and took the cables. There are about 30 refugees there," said Iranian refugee and journalist Behrouz Boochani, on November 18.

"Police entered Hillside and told security officers there not to turn on the power because locals are angry. Refugees in Hillside are living in darkness and heat tonight."

"The locals are extremely angry because the generators are very noisy. The disturbing point here is that security officers could not prevent them and were really scared."

Advocates from GetUp! last week shared footage and photos, captured during a recent clandestine visit, of Hillside and the West Lorengau transit centre, another of the facilities refugees and asylum seekers are meant to move into. Video shows non-operational showers, bathroom taps which don't work, old battered washing machines which have not been properly installed, and filthy clogged toilets.

GetUp!
Facilities inside the West Lorengau facility

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre advocates released more startling footage on Monday, showing conditions inside the Lombrum facility. With water and power cut off, toilets and showers are now entirely clogged and dirty. The ASRC claimed more than 150 men are now seriously ill inside the centre, with conditions including chest pains, episodes of unconsciousness, kidney stones, seizures, infected cuts, ear and eye infections, skin abscesses, skin rashes, chronic diahorrea, gastric problems, post traumatic stress disorder and other serious mental health conditions.

"A lack of clean water to drink, no water to flush or clean toilets and at most only one meal a day is greatly contributing to the sick men's rapid deterioration and need for urgent medical evacuation," the ASRC said in a statement.

Makeshift wells, built from garbage bins put into deep holes dug into the ground, were allegedly destroyed last week by PNG authorities, as were other water storage and collection tools to catch rain. Footage shared by the ASRC appears to show PNG authorities ramming a water tank with a car. One refugee inside the centre said the men had been forced to bathe in and drink salt water.

Professor Patrick McGorry -- renowned psychiatrist, mental health expert and former Australian of the Year -- said he was shocked after seeing the footage.

"From a mental health perspective, and my own experience of working for 30 years with people seeking asylum, a perfect storm is building with now unmedicated patients with severe depression who are now experiencing withdrawal symptoms from their antidepressants and at the same time have lost the protective benefits of the medicine," he said in a statement.

"Preventable deaths seem not only inevitable but imminent."

In an interview on The Project on Monday, McGorry said many of the men were "chronically depressed" and "very much on the brink of suicide".

"It's a humanitarian and health crisis," he said.

Footage inside the Lombrum centre shows men drinking from dirty wells, and displaying rashes and other illnesses from drinking that water.

"The deteriorating state of the men's bodies was obvious to me as I was shown around. This is a medical emergency festering inside a humanitarian crisis," said ASRC advocacy and campaigns director, Jana Favero.

"It's hard to believe the suffering of people seeking asylum could get any worse after five gruelling years of imprisonment in inadequate facilities under unbearable conditions on Manus, where six men have died since 2013. But it has."

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