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Manus Island Labelled “A Concentration Camp” for Asylum Seekers

April 30, 2013


  • Manus Island labelled a “Concentration Camp” for asylum seekers
  • Doctor sacked for speaking out against horrendous conditions
  • Labor Immigration Minister refuses to comment

A doctor who worked at the Manus Island detention centre has said the experience made him ”ashamed to be an Australian”.

Dr John Valentine, a former International Health and Medical Services worker, told the ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday that despite Australia ”squandering money” in offshore processing, he had tried in vain to warn authorities the Manus Island camp did not have sufficient medial supplies and equipment to care for children.

”The whole time I was there it was just a disaster, medically,” Dr Valentine said.

”They ought not to be in Manus Island. It’s just too remote and the medical facilities are quite inadequate.”

Dr Valentine said that he continually sent lists of equipment he desperately needed to his manager and staff in Sydney, including oxygen, antibiotics, bladder catheters, anaesthetic agents, sedatives and so on.

”The oxygen was terribly important and it didn’t arrive. Where was it? Where was it? We kept asking, could we have it? Send it up. It never came.”

There are now 30 children in the Manus Island centre.

“The thing about children from a medical point of view is that they get sick very quickly,” he told the program, which aired on Monday.

“We had very little in the way of paediatric equipment and facilities there.”

He said there was a 24-hour delay between calling for a medical evacuation by air and the plane arriving.

“Getting the sick person out is just too long for kids.”

Dr Valentine said among the first asylum seekers to be transferred to the centre were a severely anaphylactic young boy and a nine-year-old girl with anaemia with a reported history of blood transfusions.

“The little boy with anaphylaxis … was sent over with a mass in his neck requiring investigation,” he said.

“I mean, how can we investigate a mass in a neck? We don’t even have x-rays let alone anything else.”

The program also described cases of people harming themselves at the Manus centre, including a man who poured petrol over himself in an effort to commit suicide.

It also said the number of people harming themselves at Australia’s processing centre on Nauru increased after former immigration minister Chris Bowen visited.

Mr Bowen explained to detainees that Nauru, which didn’t have any laws for processing refugees, was “still developing its system.”

Current Immigration Minister Brendon O’Connor refused to be interviewed for the Four Corners documentary telling producers that they could “talk to him at a doorstop” if they wanted to.

Meanwhile, the Four Corners report showed there were still differences between Australia and Nauru on the Australian government’s “no advantage” policy.

The policy requires asylum seekers coming by boat to wait the same period to be resettled as other refugees coming through regular channels.

“The no advantage policy is an Australian government policy,” Nauru’s former foreign minister Kieren Keke told the ABC.

“I don’t recall any discussions specifically about that approach with us, as a government.”

IHMS told Four Corners that medical provisions and replacements are ”supplied as required”.

There are now more than 30 children on Manus Island.

Another whistleblower, the Salvation Army’s Paul Moulds, was director of offshore missions at Nauru and Manus Island before recently returning to Sydney.

He said he had spent almost his entire career in homelessness services, but said he had never had a harder job than that he faced in Australia’s offshore processing centres.

”I can say quite honestly the people I work with from government and from the host countries, I don’t think they want to injure asylum seekers. I don’t think they want to see more damage done to them. But Australia has to determine, it has to weigh up the consequences of what it’s doing.”

Australian Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs suggested the government rushed the opening of the centres for political expediency.

”It’s not as though we didn’t know what offshore processing could bring … we know how dangerous and debilitating it was. We know the effect it had on people … but I think, frankly, it was caught up in a political environment at the time and not enough serious thought was given to what the consequences were going to be.”

While the figure is expected to be revised in the May budget, offshore processing is currently forecast to cost $2.3 billion over the next four years.

The United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees’ regional spokesman, Richard Towle, said this was a matter for Australia, but said: ”I would say, however, that UNHCR’s global budget for this year is $3.7 billion and with that money we’re expected to respond to the crises of Syria, Mali, Afghanistan, for 25 million globally.”

Meanwhile, the department of immigration has confirmed Australia will not fund the legal defence of asylum seekers charged with crimes in Nauru or Manus Island detention centres.

While the government will help asylum seekers detained on Nauru with their claims for protection under a memorandum of understanding with the island nation, it will not help people charged with crimes under Nauru’s domestic laws while they are detained on Australia’s behalf.





22 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2013 12:07 pm

    Reporter Debbie Whitmont tries to answer this question and the results are deeply disturbing.

    The evidence she finds confirms what many refugee advocates and human rights officials have alleged: that the centres breach the human rights of those being held there. Furthermore, she finds the cost of offshore processing now runs into hundreds of millions of dollars – raising questions about the financial efficiency of the policy.

    So where is all the outrage from “the left…??”

  2. egg permalink
    April 30, 2013 12:30 pm

    Its a total disgrace and I have nothing further to say, except that I’m a big fan of onshore processing.

  3. Tom of Melbourne permalink
    April 30, 2013 12:32 pm

    Off shore processing is a blight on Australia.

    For a Labor government to be deliberately cruel and inhumane to innocent people is a disgrace.

  4. Ricky (Tory Torcher) permalink
    April 30, 2013 12:47 pm

    On shore processing now, 4 corners was a eye opener last night.

  5. April 30, 2013 12:57 pm

    Women and children are set to remain in Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island offshore processing centre after Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor rejected claims from former staff that the site was a “disaster”.

  6. TB Queensland permalink
    April 30, 2013 4:52 pm

    Yep! Onshore processing … more efficient, effective and economic …

  7. Ol' Sancty permalink
    April 30, 2013 4:58 pm

    Scott Morrison said they wouldn’t have women and especially children in the Manus Centre in its current condition. 4 Corners chose not to show that interview.

  8. April 30, 2013 5:11 pm

    That’s not to say that, Bolt, doesn’t make a fair point in this instance.

  9. April 30, 2013 5:36 pm

    I see the outrage is palpable down at the cafe…


  10. April 30, 2013 7:07 pm



    *hats on arses*

  11. April 30, 2013 7:55 pm

    In news just to hand, the Gillard govt has announced that it plans to expand an existing detention to accommodate more children behind razor wire.

    Go Julia!

  12. April 30, 2013 7:56 pm


    “Children will again be held in mainland detention centres, with authorities setting aside a compound at Darwin’s Wickham Point centre for families.

    It is a significant shift for Labor, which has held a long-time opposition to detaining children.

    Staff have been told minors could be held within the grounds of a detention centre by the end of the week.”

    Read more:

  13. IPA address permalink
    April 30, 2013 8:15 pm

    *go team*

  14. egg permalink
    April 30, 2013 8:21 pm

    Tony’s IPA adress is reckoned to be one of his best speeches … just sayin’.

  15. egg permalink
    April 30, 2013 8:22 pm

    … address…

  16. Tom of Melbourne permalink
    April 30, 2013 8:58 pm

    Their lively debate on asylum seekers is very trendy too!

  17. April 30, 2013 9:02 pm

    I see that Doug Cameron has done the decent thing and is demanding that Manus Island be shut down.

    I guess he must be part of “the hate media” now too.

  18. April 30, 2013 9:06 pm

    Yes, it’s hilarious isn’t it Tom.

    If this was Howard govt policy – expanding existing detention centres to accommodate more children to be sent there – then they’d be shouting from the rooftops that it’s a disgrace! Inhumane! UnAustralian!

    But because it’s Gillard’s policy the silence is deafening.


  19. Ol' Sancty permalink
    April 30, 2013 9:18 pm

    Yes, sorry I neglected to declare my Bolt channelling there.

    Remiss of me.

  20. Tom of Melbourne permalink
    April 30, 2013 9:54 pm

    Yes, it’s always a very impressive sight, watching the leftists, the progressives, humanitarians over “there” all rallying to the cause of innocent people, particularly children, locked up in a hell hole for no reason.

    They’re such an ethical lot.

  21. egg permalink
    April 30, 2013 10:08 pm

    ‘Yep! Onshore processing … more efficient, effective and economic …’

    I agree and its also humane, but Gillard has a tin ear so we are just wasting our breath trying to convince her.

    Abbott wants to turn back the boats, which may be effective, yet inefficient and expensive.

    There is a simple answer….

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