Refugee workers ‘encourage’ self harm and immolation, says Australian minister

Australia’s immigration minister has accused refugee advocates of “encouraging” asylum seekers to set themselves on fire so they can get into the country. Peter Dutton said those who attempt suicide in offshore detention centres will not persuade the Australian government to change its border protection policies. Officials claim a 21-year-old Somali woman is in a critical condition in an Australian hospital after she set herself alight at a camp on the South Pacific island of Nauru. Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said that the woman, who he named as Hadon or Hodan, had suffered head injuries in November and last week had been among three asylum seekers who had been taken from recuperation in a Brisbane detention centre and flown back to Nauru, off the islands of Papua New Guinea.

I have previously expressed my frustration and anger frankly at advocates and others who are in contact with those in regional processing centres and who are encouraging some of these people to behave in a certain way, believing that that pressure exerted will see a change in our policy.

Australia’s immigration minister Peter Dutton

Three days earlier, a 23-year-old Iranian man, named Omid, had died in the same hospital after setting himself on fire at the Pacific island camp, which holds asylum seekers trying to reach Australia by boat. Australia’s policy on asylum seekers has attracted criticism from many groups, including the country’s church leaders who have also promised to give sanctuary to those seeking refuge in the country. The policy sees everyone who arrives seeking asylum is detained and processed in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Those found to be refugees will be resettled in PNG, Nauru or Cambodia. The PNG government last week said the detention camp on Manus Island should close, throwing into doubt the fate of 900 refugees.

No action will cause the government to deviate from its course. We are not going to allow people to drown at sea again, 1,200 people drowned at sea last time Australia lost control of its borders.

Peter Dutton