Papua New Guinea: Refugee health crisis looming as Australia withdraws support

On Monday 30 April the Australian government is expected to end its contract with International Health and Medical Services (IHMS), which provides healthcare for the refugees and asylum seekers Australia has sent to Papua New Guinea (PNG). Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International's Pacific Researcher, said:

“Ever since the Australian government began shipping refugees out to detention centres on remote tropical islands, they have been trying to hide from the consequences of this cruel policy. Withdrawing healthcare is Australia’s latest deplorable attempt to shift the responsibility for the suffering it has caused.

“The health situation for refugees and asylum seekers in PNG is already dire, but the end of the IHMS contract threatens to turn this into an all-out crisis. Despite six deaths, and soaring rates of mental illness and self-harm among this traumatized population, the Australian government seems to have no plan in place for filling the void that will be left by the withdrawal of these services.

“Refugees in PNG have neither the freedom of movement nor the means to access healthcare on their own, and the fragile national health system will be unable to cope without Australian support.

“The only way for Australia to ensure the health of the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus is to end offshore processing for good. In the meantime, the Australian government must take immediate steps to ensure that the refugees and asylum seekers it has sent to PNG are able to access adequate healthcare, and reinstate torture and trauma counselling as a priority.”