back to top

An Asylum Seeker With A "Broken Chest" Went Four Days Without Medical Attention

"Just one painkiller, and I will go back to my country."

Posted on

An asylum seeker on Manus Island with a chest injury has allegedly gone four days without medical attention, after the group running the detention centre's medical clinic was removed from the island by the PNG government.

Behrouz Boochani/Supplied

Lebanese asylum seeker Azzam El Sheikh attempted to reach Australia by boat in 2013 and was detained on Manus Island.

He has not been granted refugee status and was marked for deportation back to Lebanon.

But on March 31, when immigration officials attempted to forcibly deport El Sheikh, he allegedly self harmed, which caused an unspecified chest injury.

A video sent to BuzzFeed News by refugees on Manus Island show El Sheikh lying on a piece of cardboard on the floor. He claims he has been unable to receive medication attention or painkillers for his injury.

The video is titled "Message to Mr Turnbull".

View this video on YouTube

Margaret Sullivan/YouTube / Via youtube.com

The description for the above video claims El Sheikh was taken onto a plane on Manus Island and was due to be flown to Port Moresby. However the man harmed himself on the plane before takeoff and was removed and sent to the jail in Lorengau. Another Manus detainee has confirmed the veracity of this account.

"[Immigration officials] had him in a car in the town, and they were taking him somewhere like they had caught a terrorist," Iranian refugee Amir told BuzzFeed News.

"I feel really sick mentally for what they have done to Azzam... some guys said they saw him around near the hospital, but the hospital in town doesn't have anything to care for him."

In the video El Sheikh said he thought he had "broken my chest".

"I'm asking for two days to get just one painkiller, and they have not come to check," he said.

"I told them I don't want any money," he said. "Just one painkiller, and I will go back to my country."

Handout . / Reuters

On March 31, the same day Azzam allegedly self harmed, Amir told BuzzFeed News: "I just heard IHMS (International Health and Medical Services) will leave very soon."

The next day, more than 100 IHMS staff members were removed from the detention centre.

The medical clinic is now being run by local staff and detainees awaiting surgery and other treatment have been left in limbo as the new staff do not have access to IHMS' medical records.

Refugees advocates from Doctors 4 Refugees have told BuzzFeed News that only emergency cases are being treated, and many detainees have been told their appointments are cancelled indefinitely.

"The [new] staff are unfamiliar with the layout, the medication stock is low and they do not yet have their computers and associated systems on the island," one advocate told BuzzFeed News.

"I am absolutely not OK, IHMS are gone," Amir told BuzzFeed.

"After four years I just pray for deportment."

"Your cooperation will ensure we can provide you with the best medical care available," a flyer handed to detainees and supplied to BuzzFeed News read.

Supplied

IHMS has been paid hundreds of millions of dollars by the Australian government to provide medical facilities to asylum seekers on Manus Island since 2006.

The PNG government warned in early March the IHMS facility may be shut down after an independent review found it had failed to comply with the country's medical registration laws.

Australian Immigration, the PNG Government and IHMS did not respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.

Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at alice.workman@buzzfeed.com.

Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Gina Rushton at gina.rushton@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.