Asylum seekers on Manus Island are being given a type of anti-malaria medication that detention centre staff have been warned not to take because of serious side effects.
Centre staff were warned not to take Mefloquine, also known as Lariam, because of adverse health effects.
Salvation Army worker Simon Taylor says in a submission to a Senate inquiry that he is aware asylum seekers have been given the drug despite the warnings to staff.
Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration warns that patients with a history of depression, anxiety disorders or other major psychiatric illness should not be prescribed the drug.
It’s common for asylum seekers in detention to suffer depression, post traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses.
The US military developed the drug in the 1970s and has curbed its use among troops after it was linked to permanent brain damage, suicide, murder and domestic violence.
During his time on Manus Island between last September and February 2014, Mr Taylor experienced several camp “lockdowns”.
“Locals with machetes attempted to breach perimeter fences,” he said.
Many asylum seekers had contracted food poisoning from poor kitchen hygiene and insects that had been found in meals.
At times drinking water at the centre had the taste and smell of detergent because Papua New Guinea staff used inadequate processes.
Asylum seekers are allowed one to two hours of afternoon leisure time when they can play card games and soccer.
“Under no circumstances” are they given access to leisure equipment outside that time.
Mr Taylor said the Salvos had more sports equipment such as baseballs and skipping ropes but these were “deemed too dangerous” and were never used as it would require diverting security staff resources.
He had also worked at the Nauru detention centre and said its activity programs had not been allowed to be replicated on Manus for “operational reasons”.
Comment has been sought from International Health and Medical Services, which provides health care to asylum seekers at offshore detention centres.