Delays blamed for refugee death at Australian center

MELBOURNE, Australia (AA) – An Iranian refugee who died after setting himself on fire at an offshore Australian detention center suffered without morphine for 10 hours and waited 24 hours for a medical airlift, according to his wife.

An official from Doctors for Refugees said Monday that Omid Masoumali’s wife told her husband did not even receive treatment from doctors for two hours after his self-immolation April 27 at the Pacific island of Nauru.

“That situation yet again exposes the lie that people who are in offshore detention centres are given the same treatment as they are in Australia,” Dr. Barri Phatarfod told news broadcaster ABC.

Masoumali, 23, poured petrol on himself and ignited it Wednesday in front of United Nations representatives visiting the Nauru center

He died at a Brisbane hospital two days later.

The ABC reported that video footage released last week shows Masoumali walking the corridors of a Nauru hospital screaming in pain.

“When have you seen a burn victim with such a severe level of burn, some reports say 80 per cent, some reports say 90 per cent — when do you see a burn victim running around a hospital screaming in agony for several hours after the initial event?” Phatarfod asked Monday.

Omid’s wife Nana told Phatarfod that her husband went two hours without a doctor attending to him, and eight more hours before morphine was administered.

She said 24 hours passed before medical airlift arrived at Nauru, rather than the typical six-hour flight from Australia’s mainland.

A spokesman for Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection told the ABC that authorities “acted promptly to request an air ambulance in the event the man required transport to Australia”.

“The most rapidly deployable air ambulance was used to attend this emergency,” he said.

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 Masoumali had been classified as a refugee.

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

He had 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”