14 Feb 2018

Refugee despair deepens on Manus Island - UN

4:44 pm on 14 February 2018

There is a pervasive and worsening sense of despair among refugees detained by Australia on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, the UN refugee agency says.

the 194th day of peaceful protest on Manus Island, 12-2-18.

the 194th day of peaceful protest on Manus Island, 12-2-18. Photo: supplied

Many of the more than 500 refugees on the island stay in their rooms, neither meeting or talking with others around them, protection officer Rico Salcedo said on Tuesday following the agency's most recent mission to Manus.

Those who do leave their accomodation are downcast with a sense of desolation, grasping for hope, Mr Salcedo said.

More than 100 days since the closure of the detention centre, the need for greater mental health support, emergency medical care and specialised torture and trauma counselling remained critical and unmet, he said.

Services for refugees by predominantly Australian-contracted companies were no longer co-rordinated by Australia leading to confusion and a lack of outreach for men too afraid to leave their accomodation, the officer reported.

"Australia remains ultimately responsible, as the state from which these refugees and asylum-seekers have sought international protection, for their welfare and long-term settlement outside of Papua New Guinea," Mr Salcedo said.

"The government of Australia should assume a clear coordination role with regard to the service providers it has retained, and adequately monitor and provide services in line with growing and evolving needs," he said.

In 2016, the UN found 88 percent of Manus refugees suffered from mental disorders as a result of their indefinite detention, the highest rate ever recorded in a group of refugees.

The safety of refugees in the community also remained a major concern with police advising them to return to their accommodation 6pm and to walk in groups, Mr Salcedo told a press briefing at the UN Palais des Nations in Geneva.

"We cannot emphasize enough that solutions must be found for all, outside of Papua New Guinea, as a matter of urgency."

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