UPDATE – Australia slams advocates after refugee self-immolation


By Jill Fraser

MELBOURNE, Australia (AA) – Australia’s immigration minister accused “advocates and others” of providing false hope to people held in the country’s offshore detention centers, after a young Somali woman became the second refugee to set herself on fire on Nauru in a week.

Peter Dutton slammed those he said were “encouraging some of these people to behave in a certain way, believing that that pressure exerted on the Australian Government will see a change in our policy in relation to our border protection measures.”

He told reporters, “no action advocates or those in regional processing countries will cause the Government to deviate from its course.”

The 21-year-old Somali woman, named by refugee advocates as Hodan Yasin, was transferred to a hospital in Australia’s Brisbane in a critical condition after setting herself on fire Monday on the Pacific island nation of Nauru.

She suffered burns to 70 percent of her body.

The incident came three days after a 23-year-old Iranian man died from injuries sustained after his self-immolation in front of United Nations representatives visiting the detention center.

On Monday, the ABC reported that his wife had told an official from Doctors for Refugees that he had suffered without morphine for 10 hours and waited 24 hours for a medical airlift to Australia’s mainland.

The Somali refugee was reportedly returned to Nauru last week after receiving medical treatment on the mainland after suffering a serious head injury in November.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson Ian Rintoul said Tuesday that Yasin was recognized as a high suicide risk and had been placed “under high security 24-hour watch in the Brisbane Transit Accommodation”.

He said in a statement that Yasin was among three refugees “snatched” from the facility by Border Force at 3.00 a.m. on April 27 (1700GMT April 26) and returned to Nauru.

“She was carried bodily out of the detention center by Border Force officers,” Rintoul said. “On the very night that Yasin was returned to Nauru, she swallowed washing powder [attempting self-harm].”

Dutton’s comments Tuesday were disputed by an official from the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, who insisted that advocates were involved firsthand in trying to keep those detained on Nauru calm and hopeful.

“I know that there are advocates out there, like me, who are texting, messaging, WhatsApping all the time,” the ABC quoted Pamela Curr as saying. “Of course we don’t want them to hurt themselves.”

She described the Somali woman as “beside herself with distress” after being sent back to Nauru.

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.