Manus Island: man sets himself on fire after being ‘denied medical treatment’ | Australia news


A man who had been trying to seek medical care has set himself alight in his room on Manus Island, refugees have said.

The incident occurred at Hillside Haus, one of three accomodation blocks in Lorengau, which house the hundreds of asylum seeker and refugee men sent there under Australia’s offshore processing policy.

Photographs show a significant blaze in one building, attended to by immigration officers and police with fire extinguishers and hoses.

Manus-based refugee Shamindan Kanapadhi said a man had set himself on fire inside his room.

“He has been suffering with severe health issues and his medical treatment has been denied for a long time,” Kanapadhi said. “Today he went to the PIH clinic to get some help but they didn’t help him and he was very stressed.”

Manjeet Singh lives with the man at Hillside Haus, and told Guardian Australia the man had locked himself inside his room before the blaze began.

“The security guards arrived to break the door and couldn’t [so] I helped with some other guys and we broke the door, took him from inside,” he said. “When I see him he can’t speak, [his] face, forehead, left cheek, right cheek, very badly burned.

“I’m not sure how he did [the] fire because I was outside with security. The whole thing was five, 10 minutes.”

Singh said he had lived with the man on Manus for six years.



Hillside Haus, one of the three accommodation blocks at Lorengau, where a man who had been trying to seek medical care set himself alight.

“We are both from India. We are like brothers,” he said. “When I saw the fire I was very scared. I thought today I lost him.”

He said the man had been returned to hospital by Manus security after the blaze was extinguished.

It comes during extraordinarily tense times on Manus Island, as refugees and asylum seekers continue to protest against their conditions, and delays in processing their US resettlement claims.

A mental health crisis continues to worsen, with more than 90 acts of self-harm and suicide attempts since Australia’s federal election.

“While the home affairs minister spends his time arguing to repeal the medevac bill, the situation on Manus spins out of control,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

On Thursday, a man climbed a mobile phone tower and stayed there for several hours, saying he had his final interview with US representatives two years ago and was yet to receive an answer.

“Right now at least 55 people in Manus and Port Moresby are waiting for that result from America,” journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani said. “They are all different nationalities. At least 20 from Iran, six from Pakistan, and one person from Sri Lanka. Ten from Sudan and five from Afghanistan and four from Somalia, and one Bangladeshi.

“The process with America is really like a torture for people – they don’t talk to people in detention and don’t give results.”

More than 500 people have been resettled in the US from Manus and Nauru, with several hundred others rejected.

On Sunday the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, acknowledged that the US was unlikely to reach the maximum number of resettlements it agreed to as part of the deal with Australia, of 1,250 people.

Last week a Somali man set himself alight at the East Lorengau camp.



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