Iranian refugee dies in Brisbane hospital after setting himself on fire

An Iranian asylum seeker has died two days after setting himself alight in an Australian detention center on the remote Pacific island of Nauru.

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 refugee’s actions were a protest intended to coincide with a visit to the island by representatives of the U.N. refugee agency, Nauru’s government said earlier this week.

The 23-year-old man was first treated at Nauru Hospital before being flown by air ambulance Brisbane, Australia, where he died in hospital from his injuries, according to a statement from Australia’s immigration department.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has confirmed that the refugee has died in a Brisbane hospital. In a statement, Mr. Dutton said that “appropriate support” was being provided to his wife and friends of the man.

“The man passed away this afternoon in a Brisbane hospital. The department expresses its sympathies to his wife, family and friends” he said.

The man, named as Omid, had been held for three years in the Australian center on Nauru, according to the Asylum Seeker Resource Center. The man who self-immolated has been identified as Omid, a recognised refugee from Iran. Omid turned 23 last December and is married.

Mr. Dutton confirmed that a number of other people – believed to be five – attempted to self-harm on Wednesday night and one on Wednesday morning.

Labor’s immigration spokesman Richard Marles described the death as “an absolute tragedy”.

Mr Marles said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had to act quickly in response. “It is clear that the Turnbull Government’s policy, focused only on deterrence with no feasible pathway to permanent migration in a resettlement country is leaving people desperate and without hope,” he said.

“Mr Turnbull must urgently seek a viable agreement to resolve the fate of people on Manus Island and Nauru.”

The governments of Australia and of Nauru – which recently began convicting people for attempting suicide – in response warned others against what they described as acts of “political protest”.

Video footage of the incident shows the 23-year-old Iranian man soaked in liquid, standing in a clearing and shouting to the people around him. According to one witness, Omid said: “This is how tired we are, this action will prove how exhausted we are. I cannot take it anymore.”

Canberra sends asylum seekers who attempt to enter the country by boat to remote processing centres in Papua New Guinea or Nauru, with no hope of being settled in Australia.

The 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.

Australia 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. Rights groups have long criticised the policy and conditions in the camps.

The government imposed its policy of offshore detention after a sharp rise in the number of boats crammed with asylum seekers arriving in Australian waters. Between 2007 and 2013, the Australian government says at least 1,200 people lost their lives trying to make the treacherous sea journey.
Australia Detention Centers

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