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Asylum-seeker to Australia commits suicide

May 11, 2016

Australia's immigration policy seeks to intercept desperate refugees at sea and deny them access to an asylum hearing. Instead, they are being shipped off to detention facilities on far-flung Pacific islands.

Thousands take to streets to demanding that refugees be given a chance to apply for asylum in australia. In front of the procession, a long banner reads "Justice for refugees." Smaller banners in the the background echo that sentiment.
Image: picture alliance/AA/R. Sakar

Australia's hardline immigration policy, which blocks all asylum requests, has claimed its second suicide victim in as many weeks.

A 26-year-old Bangladeshi refugee died of heart failure after an apparent drug overdose on the island of Nauru.

"The man admitted himself to the Republic of Nauru Hospital on May 9, complaining of chest pains," Australia's Department of Immigration and Border Protection said in a statement. "He was receiving treatment in hospital, but died early today after a series of cardiac arrests."

Officials in Nauru did not respond to media inquiries, but human rights' activist Ian Rintoul said refugees on the island told him the man, whom he referred to only by the name Rakib, killed himself by overdosing on pills.

"Rakib's friends say his suicide was driven by the same desperation as others on Nauru," said Rintoul, the coordinator of the Refugee Action Coalition, which is based in Australia.

Since 2013, Australia's asylum policy has denied people arriving by boat any chance of being allowed to settle in the country, even if found to be refugees. Instead they are summarily sent to offshore camps on the Papua New Guinean island of Manus and the tiny island of Naura, which lies in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, nearly 2,800 miles (4,500 kilometers) from Australia.

Refugees becoming more desperate

But the refugees, from such far-flung places as Iran, Somalia and Bangladesh, are becoming increasingly desperate as their plight drags on. In recent weeks some have taken to self-inflicted harm, including a 21-year-old Somali woman who set herself alight and is in critical condition.

Australia's immigration policy has become a major headache for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as campaigning for parliamentary elections, slated for July 2, heats up.

Australia PM defends policy on asylum seekers

The United Nations and human rights organizations have slammed Australia for its detention camps, citing the harsh conditions and reports of abuse.

More than 100 refugees and asylum seekers being held in detention have signed a petition demanding an opportunity to leave the country.

"We have been living in Nauru as prisoners for three years now," they said in the petition. "We've decided to rescue ourselves by getting on boats once again."

The advocacy group GetUp! said the Bangladeshi man had been on Nauru for more than two years and was found to be a refugee, after arriving as an asylum seeker, according to spokesman Matthew Phillips.

"It is time," Phillips said, "to bring those who have been unlawfully and cruelly detained to safety in our communities."

bik/sms (Reuters, AFP)