Papua New Guinea: MSF urges access to asylum seekers and refugees in Manus Island Transit Centres

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) urges Papua New Guinea (PNG) authorities to give its team access to the asylum seekers and refugees in Manus Island transit centres, to assess refugees’ conditions and provide essential medical care.

On Sunday 19 November, MSF had received written authorisation from PNG authorities to assess the medical conditions of refugees and asylum seekers inside the officially-closed Regional Processing Centre (RPC). Accordingly, a team of two doctors and a water and sanitation specialist were on standby on Manus Island since Wednesday 22 November. On Friday 24 November, PNG police removed the hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers who remained inside the RPC. However, despite MSF receiving authorisation, the team were never granted access by the time the 328 remaining men in the centre were removed and sent to alternative transit centres on Friday. MSF has also not been granted access to any transit centres.

“As a humanitarian and medical professional, I am very concerned by the fate of the refugees and people seeking asylum in Manus Island’s transit centres”, said Dr Stewart Condon, member of the MSF team who travelled to Manus and President of MSF Australia. “They reportedly have had limited access to food and water for the last three weeks. Some of them have been living in detention for four years with likely impact on their mental health.”

On Thursday 23 November, the MSF team met one man who was later taken by ambulance from the RPC to Lorengau General Hospital. He appeared to be dehydrated, malnourished and showed signs of severe depression, but the team were not able to speak with him for any length of time and are following up his progress.

“MSF remains concerned about whether the medical and psychological needs of the men are being met, and whether the local structures have the capacity to care for them”, Dr Condon said. “The situation here is volatile and we remain on standby to give any medical humanitarian support we can.”

“We call on the PNG authorities to grant MSF, an independent medical humanitarian organisation, access to the refugees and asylum seekers inside the transit centres to assess their medical conditions.”