Australia: Iranian refugee dies after self-immolation

By Jill Fraser

MELBOURNE, Australia (AA) – An Iranian refugee who set himself on fire at an offshore Australian detention center on the Pacific island of Nauru died at a Brisbane hospital Friday.

The 23-year-old, known as Omid, had poured petrol on himself and ignited it Wednesday in front of United Nations representatives visiting the detention center.

Under its immigration policy, Australia detains asylum seekers who arrive by boat at offshore detention centers including Nauru, where conditions have been described as appalling by rights advocates.

While at the detention center, the status of the asylum seekers is evaluated. Omid had been classified as a refugee.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed Omid’s death in a statement Friday, saying that “appropriate support” was being provided to Omid’s wife and friends.

Omid was airlifted to Brisbane yesterday, more than 24 hours after the incident, with third-degree burns to 80 percent of his body.

“The man was taken to Republic of Nauru Hospital for medical treatment by the Nauruan authorities,” Dutton said.

“He was then transferred to Australia by air ambulance for medical treatment,” he added. “The department expresses its sympathies to his wife, family and friends.”

News broadcaster ABC reported that the death will be conveyed to the Queensland coroner.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson Ian Rintoul blamed the conditions on Nauru for Omid’s death, saying that “there was a criminal delay in Omid obtaining the treatment and care he needed”.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, he slammed “the lack of experienced staff; the lack of medical supplies; the lack of attention; the shocking conditions in the Nauru hospital and the hideous delay in arranging for Omid to be medivacced from Nauru”.

“Those responsible must be held to account,” he said.

Dutton, however, disputed the accusation of a delay.

“Obviously people realise that Nauru is 4,500 kilometers or so from Australia,” he told media Friday.

Greens Immigration spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young issued a statement describing Omid as another victim of “the cruel detention camps on Manus Island and Nauru”.

Omid is the third asylum seeker who has died at Australia’s detention centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.