Refugee sets herself on fire in Australian detention camp | News | DW | 03.05.2016
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Refugee sets herself on fire in Australian detention camp

A refugee has set herself on fire at an Australian detention camp on the island of Nauru. Australia's government blamed activists for "encouraging" such behavior in order to make it to the mainland.

A 21-year-old Somali refugee was flown 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) from a detention center on the Pacific island of Nauru to the Australian city of Brisbane after lighting herself on fire, officials said on Tuesday.

"She remains in a critical condition and all efforts are being made to meet her medical needs. We can only hope for the best possible outcome," Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said in a statement. He said that the woman was receiving "the utmost care, treatment and consideration."

"It is of grave concern that this person would resort to such an extreme act of self-harm."

A spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition avtivist organization, Ian Rintoul, said that in November the woman had suffered serious head injuries in the detention center on Nauru and had been flown to Brisbane for treatment.

The woman was flown back to Nauru last week from a Brisbane immigration detention center.

"She was on 24-hour mental health watch because of a number of attempts at suicide inside the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation," Rintoul said. "It raises particular questions about the duty of care."

The incident comes just days after an Iranian refugee also set himself on fire in Nauru during a visit by United Nations representatives. Nauru government officials said his actions were an apparent protest over Australia's strict asylum laws.

Although the 23-year-old man was airlifted to Australia to treat his severe burns, he died on Friday.

Activists 'encouraging' self-harm, minister says

Dutton acknowledged on Tuesday that there had been a rise in cases of self-harm in the Nauru camps but accused refugee activists of giving the asylum seekers false hope that such acts could increase their chances of one day being settled in Australia.

He said some advocates were "encouraging" refugees to "engage in behaviors they believe will pressure the Government to bring them to Australia."

"The recent behaviors in Nauru are not protests against living conditions. They aren't protests against health care, they aren't protests against the lack of financial support," Dutton added.

He said that Australia's government did not intend to bend on its controversial asylum-seeking policies, stressing that, "no action... will cause the government to deviate from its course"

"We are not going to allow people to drown at sea again," Dutton told reporters in Canberra.

Under Australia's current immigration policy, asylum seekers intercepted trying to reach Australia are sent to immigration camps thousands of kilometers away from the Australian mainland.

Nauru currently "hosts" 700 people, according to Dutton.

The Papua New Guinea government last ordered the closure of a similar camp on Manus Island, which holds about 850 people, after its Supreme Court ruled the facility unlawful.

rs/msh (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)