United Nations warns of escalating crisis at Australian refugee camp after death

Refugees and asylum-seekers holding a vigil for an Iranian asylum-seeker who was found dead at a processing facility on Papua New Guinea on August 7, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The United Nations has warned of a worsening crisis at the Australian refugee detention camps on Manus Island of Papua New Guinea (PNG) following the death of an Iranian asylum seeker there.
The UN Refugee Agency announced in a Tuesday statement that the death of the 32-year-old refugee on PNG’s Manus Island on Monday “highlights the precarious situation for vulnerable people.”
The body said it was “gravely concerned” by the deteriorating conditions and warned of an “escalating crisis.”
Australia confirmed on Monday the death of the Iranian national, identified as Hamed Shamshiripour, who was discovered hanging from a tree by pupils near a school in the vicinity of the Refugee Transit Center in East Lorengau. It did not, however, offer further details about the case.
Rights groups said the Iranian was the fifth held on Manus to die since Canberra’s offshore detention regime began in July 2013.
Nearly 800 men are held on Manus and, according to the UN, they have been told to relocate elsewhere in PNG or return to their native country as medical and security services are due to end at the camps in October.
This is while a PNG court ruled last year that holding people on Manus was unconstitutional, and the camp should be shut down by next October amid rising tensions.
“The announcement of the closure of the center, in the absence of appropriate alternatives, is causing acute distress among refugees and asylum seekers,” said the UN statement.
It further emphasized, “Many fear for their safety outside the center, particularly in the wake of several violent incidents in recent years.”
Canberra sends anyone who tries to enter the country by boat without a visa to its remote processing facilities in Nauru and on Manus Island, with no hope of being settled in Australia.
Australian authorities have long maintained that even those attempting to arrive by boat and subsequently found to be genuine refugees would never be allowed to settle in the country.
The UN accused Canberra last month of backing out of a commitment to relax its strong stance and resettle some refugees held offshore with family ties in Australia.
It again renewed its call on Monday for the government “to urgently find viable, humane solutions outside of Papua New Guinea and Nauru for those remaining under offshore processing arrangements.”
Refugee advocates and medical professionals have slammed conditions at the Australian refugee camps, with reports of widespread abuse, self-harm and mental health problems.

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