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Pacific News Minute: Fifth Asylum Seeker Dies on Manus Island

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Over the weekend, an asylum seeker was found dead on Manus Island. The fifth man to die in the care of Australia’s off-shore detention camp in Papua New Guinea. PNG officials say he hanged himself, but fellow asylum seekers and refugee advocates say it’s too soon to rule out foul play. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.


Doubts about this case follow two separate, but interconnected threads.  Documents show that 31 year old Iranian HamedShamshiripour’s mental health had deteriorated since he arrived at the Australian run camp four years ago. A nurse who spoke anonymously told Radio New Zealand, “He should have been independently assessed by a psychiatrist, and he should have been transferred to Australia.”

The Guardian published documents that show that the Chief Medical officer of Australia’s Border Force was personally informed of Shamshiripour’s condition twice in the past year, and said that he would review his care and records. The doctor declined an interview request from the newspaper.


After a number of apparently psychotic episodes and suicide attempts, Shamshiripour was arrested and jailed for a month. A complaint signed by fourteen fellow asylum seekers charged that, instead of treatment, he was beaten.


Which brings up the second thread, Shamshiripour was involved in several incidents with locals and with local police and pictures of his body reportedly show injuries. Sudanese refugee Abdul Aziz Adam told Australia’s ABC, “He’s been killed, as far as we know, so that is not a suicide.” PNG Police reject reports of injuries.


Australian Senator Nick McKim called for the body to be brought to Australia for an independent autopsy.

“Hamed was Australia’s prisoner,” he said, “and it is the Australian government’s responsibility to determine exactly how he died.”

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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