Papua New Guinea: Asylum-seeker on hunger strike restrained and force-fed

Responding to news that an asylum-seeker being treated at a hospital in Papua New Guinea for a serious medical condition has been restrained for three days and is being force-fed by hospital staff after he went on hunger strike, Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International’s Pacific Researcher said:

“Forcing medical treatment and feeding a patient without his consent, unless it is medically necessary, may violate the right to health and the right to be protected from torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

“He has gone on hunger strike to protest against the poor medical treatment he has received in PNG and his need for further medical treatment, which cannot be provided in the country.

“The Papua New Guinea and Australian authorities must address the underlying concerns raised by the asylum-seeker, and must transfer him to a hospital in Australia where he can receive the appropriate treatment he urgently needs.”

The man is currently at the Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby in PNG, and is subject to a court order that permits force-feeding and his current medical treatment. He claims that he has been slapped by hospital staff attempting to force-feed him after starting his hunger strike approximately 20 days ago.

He was previously sent to Australia for medical treatment before being returned to Manus Island. He has been informed by medical professionals that his condition cannot be treated in PNG, yet Australian officials have refused to transfer him to Australia for further treatment. He has been at the Pacific International Hospital for just over one month. 

Asylum seekers on Manus Island

Some 800 refugees and asylum-seekers have been held on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea for nearly four-and-a-half years by the Australian government in restrictive conditions that are cruel and degrading.

Approximately 100 refugees and asylum-seekers were sent to Port Moresby in 2017 for medical treatment, and some have remained there for nearly a year. Amnesty spoke to more than 30 refugees inPort Moresby in November 2017, many of whom said they had been waiting for months for medical treatment or had been told their conditions cannot be treated in PNG because of limitations in the health care system, including lack of equipment or available specialists.

Asylum-seekers in PNG are those who initially sought asylum in Australia, but have not had the right to fairly present or make appeals in their claims.

More than 800 refugees and asylum seekers remain trapped in PNG under Australia’s cruel policy of ‘offshore processing’.

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