Asylum Seeker Who Set Himself Alight Flown to Australia for Medical Treatment

August 25, 2019 Updated: August 25, 2019

A Pakistani man who set himself on fire while in an asylum detention centre on Nauru is in intensive care at a Queensland hospital, advocates say.

The man, known as Jamal, 36, was flown to Brisbane from the remote Micronesian island on Saturday after harming himself on Friday while inside his room speaking to a mental health professional, SBS News reported.

Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition said advocacy groups were concerned for his welfare, citing unconfirmed reports suggesting that he was critical before being flown from the island about 3,000 kilometres from Brisbane.

He said detainees are badly affected by the government strategy of offshore housing of asylum seekers who enter Australia illegally.

“Jamal is another casualty of Australia’s offshore detention policy,” Rintoul said. “After six years on Nauru, refugees have no secure future. They have lost hope.”

The Department of Home Affairs told SBS news that the man was receiving all necessary treatment.

“The Department is aware of a self-harm incident that occurred (on Friday morning) on Nauru. The Australian and Nauru Governments will continue to provide support,” a spokesperson said.

The Nauru processing centre has operated as an “open centre” since 2015, where residents have been free to come and go, and move around the tropical island as they please.

Such emergency transfers for asylum seekers to the mainland were made legal for existing residents on Nauru when Parliament passed a controversial medivac bill on Feb. 13.

“This legislation is confined to the current cohort of people on Manus Island and Nauru,” said Kerryn Phelps, an independent lawmaker who championed the bill back in December 2018.

“It does not provide any kind of attraction to people to leave where they are and to try to make the journey to Australia because they will not be considered as part of this legislation.”

Morrison had said on Feb. 9 that the government had been quietly transferring children and their families from the “open centre” of Nauru to Australia for medical treatment since mid-2018, and that soon, no more children would be residents on the island.

The Morrison government said if elected, it would work to repeal the medivac amendments to the Migration Act 1958 as the bill had “weakened” Australia’s border protection.

“People smugglers don’t deal with the nuance of the Canberra bubble,” Morrison had said. “There’s no protections or truth in advertising laws for people smugglers. They just sell the message.”

A Senate inquiry is currently in the process of examining a government bill to repeal the laws.

By Nicholas McElroy. Reuters and Epoch Times staff contributed to this article.