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Refugee (23) dies after setting himself on fire in 'political protest'

The man set himself alight on in an apparent protest over Australia’s strict asylum seeker policies.

A screengrab of the man shortly before he set himself on fire.
A screengrab of the man shortly before he set himself on fire.

AN IRANIAN REFUGEE who set himself on fire during a visit by United Nations officials to Nauru has died, officials said today, with advocates blaming his “senseless death” on Australia’s hardline immigration policy.

The 23-year-old known as Omid set fire to himself on Wednesday on the remote Pacific island where he had been sent by Australia, which refuses to resettle boat people even if found to be genuine refugees.

He was airlifted to Brisbane suffering severe burns, with the Nauru government saying it was a “political protest”.

“A 23-year-old Iranian man who set himself on fire in Nauru has tragically died today from his injuries,” Australia’s immigration department said.

Canberra sends asylum-seekers who attempt to enter the country by boat to a remote processing centre on Nauru.

They also used to send them to Papua New Guinea’s Manus island, but the country’s prime minister ordered the detention facility there to shut this week after a court ruled it was unconstitutional and illegal.

‘Senseless’

Australia’s policy has been heavily criticised internationally, including by the UN, and in October Nauru’s Regional Processing Centre was converted into an “open centre”, giving its inhabitants freedom of movement.

Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch, said Omid’s death was heartbreaking.

“This is another senseless and tragic death as a direct result of Australia’s inhumane refugee policies,” she said.

“Refugees who have fled persecution in their homelands don’t deserve a life in limbo in a detention centre or effectively imprisoned on a tiny remote island.”

Aurora Adams, human rights campaigner with GetUp, said Omid, who was married, had been in detention for three years.

“All he wanted was a future and a place to rebuild his life,” she said.

“Australia must do better than this. The camps must be closed, and the people held there brought here to safety.”

Canberra has long defended its policy of denying asylum-seekers resettlement in Australia, saying it has prevented deaths at sea and secured the nation’s borders.

Under the previous Australian Labor Party government, at least 1,200 people died trying to reach the country by boat between 2008 and 2013.

Helplines:

  • Console – 1800 247 247
  • Samaritans – 116 123
  • Aware – 1890 303 302
  • Pieta House – 01 601 0000
  • Teen-Line Ireland – 1800 833 634
  • Childline – 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)
  • turn2me.org – online counselling

© – AFP, 2016

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