Long term medical neglect compounded with COVID19 causing rapidly deteriorating mental health in immigration detention

Media Release

13 May 2020 

Yesterday afternoon, a former Manus Island detainee held for 9 months at the Government’s Alternative Place of Detention (APOD) in Melbourne’s Mantra hotel, suffered an incident of suicidal attempt.

He was taken to hospital by ambulance and remains there.

Police entered the Mantra APOD yesterday and spoke to the government’s contracted Serco officers and International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) staff who manage the care of detainees.

People who were transferred under Medevac for medical care to treat chronic mental and physical health conditions remain detained and have not been able to access appropriate treatment for which they were transferred.

There is an IHMS mental health nurse available to the detainees but in their experience, information they share with mental health staff is passed on to the Australian Border Force and used in the management of their cases.

There is a lack of trust and fear of non-independent IHMS staff in the APOD.

Long term medical neglect in indefinite detention compounded with high COVID19 risk in crowded living conditions, no access to voluntary testing or personal protective equipment has culminated in rapid mental health decline.

There is no independent medical, legal or political oversight into medical neglect and detention management, therefore no transparency or accountability or proper risk management.

The ASRC, alongside the medical community and human rights organisations, has warned that keeping people in detention without independent medical oversight and care is a severe public health risk.

Human rights activist, musician and Mantra detainee, Mostafa Azimitabar said: “There is a medical clinic right opposite the Mantra, they offered to help us with a doctor we can trust but ABF has refused.”

“We are deprived of sunlight and movement, we cannot walk like human beings, we have been isolated like this for up to a year without any good reason.”

“It is hurting our minds and we are all in danger, if my brother who is now in hospital could have had proper medical treatment from a caring doctor for his mental health, he would have been safe.”

“We don’t have any power to protect ourselves from COVID19, mental and physical suffering or recover from our illness in detention.”

Director of Advocacy Jana Favero said: “The government was politically opposed to the Medevac laws and spent years ignoring Doctor’s advice and preventing people from accessing the medical treatment they needed in Australia”

“Yet again, we are seeing the advice of medical professionals ignored, which is astounding during a health crisis’.

“Thirteen lives were lost because of this Government’s negligence, to prevent any further loss of life, people must be released from immigration detention where they can keep themselves safe and access independent medical care and community support to survive”

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