A Department of Immigration report into the death of Hamid Kehazaei has not been publicly released despite the government admitting a “draft final report” has been provided to the Queensland Coroner, and 145 days passing since the Iranian asylum seeker had his life support switched off.
The report was promised by former Immigration Minister Scott Morrison after 24-year-old Kehazaei died in a Brisbane hospital as a result of a foot infection he received while detained on Manus Island.
“The minister has asked the department's chief medical officer to conduct an in-depth clinical review on the background to the transferee's medical condition and care while at Manus OPC," a spokesman for Morrison told Fairfax in September.
But a spokesperson for new Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed to New Matilda the report had not yet been made publicly available, despite admitting a “draft final report” had been handed to the Coroner.
Since Kehazaei’s life support was switched off in September 2014 the government has refused to outline a clear version of events or explain how a foot infection was able to kill an apparently healthy 24-year-old.
But a series of witness statements and leaks have led to accusations of severe neglect on behalf of the Department.
In December a medical report leaked to the media revealed Kehazaei’s evacuation from Manus was delayed by more than 24 hours, apparently because of visa issues.
Dr Richard Kidd, a co-founder of Doctors for Refugees, told New Matilda the documents also revealed an inadequate supply of basic antibiotics on the island, and that “cheap and available” drugs could have saved the young Iranian.
Kehazaei was eventually evacuated from Papua New Guinea to Brisbane’s Mater Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on September 5.
Because Kehazaei died in Queensland the matter was referred to the state’s Coroner.
In a statement provided to New Matilda, a spokesperson for Dutton said no further comment would be provided “until the Coroners [sic]findings are made and considered”.
“Medical services at the Manus Regional Processing Centre are broadly comparable with health services available within Australia. GP, nursing and mental health care clinics are available seven days a week and there is after-hours medical staffing to respond to any medical emergencies,” they said.
After Kehazaei’s death Morrison described the level of medical care on Manus as “outstanding”. But Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the government was more interested in covering up the incident than preventing another tragedy.
“Despite the government’s refusal to be upfront with the Australian people, we know that Hamid’s death was a preventable tragedy,” she said.
“Leaked reports and medical records have exposed shocking delays in Hamid’s treatment and a damning lack of medical care.
“Hamid’s death, just like the death of Reza Barati earlier in the year, cannot be swept under the carpet despite the Abbott government’s best efforts.
“The government must release the report in full, immediately.”
Daniel Webb, the Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, also criticised the government for remaining “tight-lipped” on the circumstances surrounding Kehazaei’s death, as well as that of Reza Barati and the recent detainee hunger strike, which included hundreds of asylum seekers.
“Manus is hidden behind a veil of secrecy,” he said.
“Journalists aren’t allowed in, staff who work there have to sign strict confidentiality clauses and the Australian people are constantly forced to rely on snippets of leaked information.
“Having seen conditions inside the Manus camp first hand, it’s clear what all the secrecy is about – the Government keeps the place hidden from view because it knows conditions inside would offend most people’s sense of decency and fairness.”
A spokesperson for the QLD Department of Justice and Attorney-General told New Matilda that Kehazaei’s death was still under investigation and would be followed by an Coronial inquest.
“These proceedings will be heard in an open court, meaning that they will be open to the public,” they said.
No date has been set for the proceeding.
Doctors, whistleblowers, and advocates in communication with those held on Manus have long warned the conditions in the island’s detention centre make the likelihood of future casualties high.
“There’s no doubt Australia retains legal and moral responsibility for the rights and wellbeing of asylum seekers it sends offshore,” Webb said.
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