The family of a refugee who recently died on Manus are desperate for his body to be returned to Pakistan. Max Chalmers reports.
The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection says that calls for a refugee who died on Manus Island to have his remains repatriated are a matter for the PNG government.
Kamil Hussain died after reportedly drowning at a waterfall on the island, making him the third refugee to perish after being transferred to Papua New Guinea by Australia. There has been no suggestion that the death was in any way suspicious.
Hussain’s brother, who remains in Pakistan, has been in contact with other Pakistani men on Manus as well as officials in PNG, and is imploring the Australian and PNG governments to help bring Kamil’s body home.
Bahar Hussain – brother-in-law to the deceased Kamil – told New Matilda the family were having a very hard time in the wake of his death. Bahar now lives in Australia and said he was currently in the community on a bridging visa. Having known Kamil since before either attempted to come to Australia, he described him as “very friendly” and “a very good person”.
Bahar noted that Kamil had a wife and a daughter back in Pakistan, and said that as far as he understood neither had yet learned of Kamil’s death.
The Australian Department of Immigration today sidestepped direct questions about whether it would provide assistance in his repatriation, but said it was a matter for the PNG government.
“Funerary arrangements for refugees and transferees dying in Papua New Guinea (PNG) are matters for the PNG Government,” a spokesperson said.
“The Department is aware that the PNG Government has made contact with the deceased person’s next of kin and that local arrangements are being made for his burial.”
PNG immigration official this morning met with other Pakistani refugees on Manus.
One of the men present told New Matilda that the PNG officials said Kamil’s body couldn’t be kept for much longer in Manus hospital and would soon be buried locally or handed back to other refugees, but added that there was some doubt as to what would happen next by the end of the encounter. He said Kamil’s brother was stridently opposed to having him buried in PNG and would do anything possible to have the deceased man’s body returned to Pakistan.
Pushed to give a yes or no answer as to whether assistance of any kind would be provided to help repatriate Kamil’s body, the Australian Department of Immigration declined to comment further.
Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition, said that in the past the Australian government had helped repatriate refugees who had died in detention.
“Without assistance from Australia and PNG immigration authorities, the refugees have been set an almost impossible task. Manus is very isolated; communications are not good; and there will be the huge question of payment to transport the body,” he said.
Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish refugee and journalist who remains held on Manus, said there had been a protest when others in the detention centre heard PNG would not repatriate Kamil.
“This is incredible that immigration want to bury him by force and it is immoral and inhumane,” he commented on Facebook. “The Australian government is responsible and must send his body to Pakistan.”