The death of an Iranian asylum seeker who was held at an Australian offshore refugee detention centre was preventable, a coroner has ruled.
Queensland state coroner Terry Ryan on Monday said the circumstances that led to Hamid Khazaei’s death could be characterised as “a series of clinical errors, compounded by failures in communication” which led to delays in his care.
He also called on Canberra to improve healthcare for asylum seekers in offshore detention centres.
Hamid Khazaei died aged 24 on September 5, 2014, two weeks after contracting a leg infection while in detention at Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Manus Island prison.
Ryan’s report found that no antibiotic was available at the Manus clinic to treat the infection, which is a common ailment in such a tropical setting.
His condition deteriorated rapidly and though doctors asked for him to be transferred immediately to Australia for treatment, he was sent to a hospital without an intensive care unit in the capital, Port Moresby, instead.
After suffering a series of cardiac arrests, Khazaei was transferred to a hospital in the Australian city of Brisbane where he was found to have sustained profound brain damage.
He died after being declared brain-dead.
At the time of his death, Khazaei had been detained at Manus for a year.
“If Mr Khazaei’s clinical deterioration was recognised and responded to in a timely way at the [Manus] clinic, and he was evacuated to Australia within 24 hours of developing severe sepsis, he would have survived,” Ryan wrote in his findings.
Similar deaths would be preventable if asylum seekers were relocated to places such as Australia or New Zealand, he said, something he called “highly unlikely” in the absence of a revision of policy.
Australia’s immigration policy dictates that asylum seekers who reach the country by boat are sent to offshore detention centres are later resettled outside Australia if their asylum applications are accepted.
The centres have received fierce criticism for their poor living standards, with the United Nations human rights commission calling them “inhumane”.
In a Tweet, Human Rights Watch Australia Director Elaine Pearson said that “Medical care on Manus has gotten worse not better since 2014”.
“The solution is to get people off these islands once and for all,” she said.
Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian journalist held on Manus Island since 2013 said: “For a long time we have been asking Australian courts and independent organisations to investigate the deaths in these prison camps”.
“We think what has happened in the court today is a big step toward justice,” he added.
— Behrouz Boochani (@BehrouzBoochani) July 30, 2018
Australia’s Department of Home Affairs said it was reviewing the findings.
Manus Island’s detention centre closed in late 2017 after PNG’s Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional.
The 600 men still at the processing centre were moved to transition centres. The Guardian newspaper in March said 85 had left the island as of March 4 for resettlement.
On May 31, 245 people remained in Naru’s detention centre, 22 of them children.