The mental health of refugees detained by Australia on the Pacific island of Nauru has deteriorated so badly that some children are in a “semi-comatose state”, unable to eat, drink or talk, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said on Thursday.
Nauru is one of two Pacific nations where Australia detains hundreds of asylum seekers intercepted while trying to reach the country by boat, a policy widely criticised by the United Nations and rights groups.
MSF, one of the few groups to independently assess refugees at the restricted facilities, provided mental health care to asylum seekers and Nauru residents until the Pacific nation cancelled its contract on October 5.
“During our time on the island, we witnessed a significant deterioration of mental health among our asylum seeker and refugee patients,” Paul McPhun, executive director of the medical aid group, told reporters in Sydney.
Children are among those affected by mental heath issues, he said, although he did not give a specific number.
“Many children exist in a semi-comatose state, unable to eat, drink and talk,” said McPhun, adding that some children required intravenous fluid drips.