A WA singer-songwriter campaigning across Australia to help seriously ill refugees is playing a special gig in Hamilton Hill tomorrow night (Sunday July 19)
Dawn Barrington says more than 200 seriously ill refugees held for nearly a year in Australian hotels are in immigration limbo, with human rights groups concerned they are being detained indefinitely and not receiving proper medical care.
“The refugees are guarded 24/7 by Serco guards,” Barrington says.
“They can not leave the hotel and can not go into the community. There are young men with conditions like heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.
“There’s a young man who had an operation go wrong in Port Moresby [PNG capital] and has been in pain since and has lost the use of his hand and arm. There’s a guy who had his wrist broken and it wasn’t reset. Many of them have rotting teeth but they can’t get treatment.”
Orignally held on Manus Island and Naru, the refugees were moved to Australia last year for urgent medical treatment under the Medivac program, which was abruptly cancelled by the Morrison government.
Some of them have now been in detention for more than seven years and have chronic mental and physical health issues.
Their future is uncertain – they don’t want to return to their home country because of and at Australian detention centres for the past seven years, and is calling on the Morrison government to grant the medivac refugees Australian citizenship.
She says years of captivity and uncertainty has crushed their spirit.
“They have all come with different medical conditions, however, the overriding one is for mental health.
“Most of them are extremely depressed and struggling with different levels of PTSD and anxiety. Most of the refugees are really struggling and in absolute despair because of the indefinite nature of their situation and because of what they have been through. They don’t know why it’s going on and how long it will continue so they feel like they are literally ‘loosing their minds’.”
The federal government says the refugees are getting proper medical treatment, but Barrington claims the contracted-out care is “basic”.
“The International Health and Medical Services is contracted by the government to ‘take care’ of refugees, but they give basic support. There is a young man at the Mantra Hotel in Brisbane and he is in so much distress about his medical problems, which are significant, that he has lost weight and his hair is falling out.
“When I talk to him on video he’s not the man I spoke to a year ago, he is thin, gaunt and his face has no life left in it. It’s incredibly distressing to see.”
For the past two years Barrington has been touring Australia to raise awareness about their plight, hosting Music Talks evenings and screening a documentary she made in a detention centre in Naru.
She says refugees still find solace in music, and she wrote a song with Kazem Kazemi, a Kurdish Iranian musician who spent six years at Manus Island and has been in a refugee hotel in Brisbane for more than a year.
You can listen to the song here: www. youtube.com/watch?v=KaXaRAI4lk4
Barrington will hold a Music Talks evening at the Hamilton Hill Community Hub, Dixon Reserve tomorrow night (Sunday July 19), playing songs dedicated to refugees and talking about her visits to Manus Island.
By STEPHEN POLLOCK