Asia

Fiji deports Iranian refugee who fled Papua New Guinea

  • 3 February 2017
  • From the section Asia
Loghman Sawari, in an undated image taken from his Facebook page Image copyright FACEBOOK
Image caption Loghman Sawari was detained and deported to PNG by Fijian officials

Fiji has deported an Iranian refugee back to Papua New Guinea, where he spent years detained under Australia's controversial immigration policies.

Loghman Sawari used fake documents to fly to Fiji to seek asylum, saying he did not feel safe in PNG.

But on Friday the 21-year-old was stopped by police as he went to meet immigration officials and deported.

Rights groups have condemned the move. Amnesty International said it had "grave concerns" about his wellbeing.

Loghman Sawari arrived in PNG in 2013. He was one of about 1,250 asylum seekers detained by Australia in two offshore camps, in PNG's Manus Island and on the Pacific island of Nauru.

Australia refuses to accept refugees who arrive by boat, and says they must resettle in Cambodia or PNG. Rights groups say the policy contradicts international obligations and that conditions in the camps are deplorable.

Mr Sawari was recognised as a refugee and released from the Manus Island camp into the community. But there have been many reports of tensions and violence between refugees and PNG residents.

In September 2015 he told Britain's Guardian newspaper he had been assaulted by a guard at the transit centre because he asked for more washing powder, and required hospital treatment.

He was later resettled in the city of Lae, but lost his job and became homeless.

In February 2016 he told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper that he wanted to return to the detention centre because life in Lae left him scared, lonely and poor.

"I was never, not for one day, safe in PNG," he told the Guardian earlier this week.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Australia detains all those who arrive by boat in offshore camps

He arrived in Fiji last week. His lawyer, Aman Ravindra Singh, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that a meeting had been arranged on Friday for his asylum application to be lodged.

But he said police stopped their vehicle as they drove there, shouted at Mr Sawari to get out and bundled him into a car bound for the airport. He said he hadn't been able to speak to him since.

"I am not aware of what grounds the Fijian government used to unleash their thuggish ways against this young, desperate victim of persecution," he said.

"The Fijian government has miserably failed in using its own domestic laws to deal with this situation."

Fiji says he was deported because he had not applied for asylum straight away and because he had entered on a false passport.

Describing his case as "extreme", rights group Amnesty said: "The Australian government forced him into this position, they've pushed him to his limits and now they must take responsibility to provide him with the protection he needs."

Australia had agreed a deal with the Obama administration under which refugees detained in its offshore camps could apply to be resettled in the US.

But the deal appears to be in doubt, after new US President Donald Trump described it as "dumb" and reportedly cut short a call with the Australian prime minister.