Asylum seeker dies in Australia from self-inflicted burns

An aerial photograph of Nauru: The world's smallest republic Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Australia sends asylum seekers to a detention centre on the island nation of Nauru

A 23-year-old Iranian asylum seeker who set himself on fire at Australia's detention centre on the island of Nauru has died.

Australia's immigration department confirmed the man died at Brisbane Hospital on Friday.

His actions were a "political protest", according to the Nauruan government.

Australia sends asylum seekers it intercepts for processing at offshore locations, including Nauru, a small Pacific Island nation.

The man, known as Omid, set himself on fire at the Nauru detention centre on Tuesday and was airlifted to Brisbane Hospital in Australia with severe burns to his torso.

A statement from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said it was providing "appropriate support" to the man's wife and friends.

Graphic video footage of the incident, which reportedly occurred during a United Nations visit to the island, has been published on Australian news websites.

This man's death comes as Australia's other offshore processing centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, is threatened with closure.

Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court ruled the detention of asylum seekers was unconstitutional and therefore illegal on Tuesday.

Lives in limbo

The fate of around 850 asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island - all men - remains uncertain, with Australian and Papua New Guinean officials set to hold talks early next week.

After the Supreme Court's decision, Papuan New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill told Australia it must close the Manus Island centre and make new arrangements.

But Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has repeatedly said that none of the men on Manus Island will come to Australia.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has adopted his predecessor Tony Abbott's hard line on unauthorised asylum seeker arrivals

Mr Turnbull also ruled out sending them to New Zealand, which has previously offered to take some of the refugees Australia refuses to settle, as this would provide a "marketing opportunity" for people smugglers.

"We have to be very, very clear eyed about this. We can't afford to let the empathy that we feel for the desperate circumstances that many people find themselves in to cloud our judgment," Mr Turnbull said.

Australia and asylum

  • The number of asylum seekers travelling to Australia by boat rose sharply in 2012 and early 2013. Scores of people have died making the journey.
  • To stop the influx, the government adopted tough measures intended as a deterrent.
  • Everyone who arrives is detained. Under the policy, asylum seekers are processed offshore at centres on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
  • The government has also adopted a policy of tow-backs, or turning boats around.

"Our national security has to come first."

Meanwhile five MPs from the opposition Labor party have broken ranks and declared they do not support Australia's offshore processing regime.

The tough immigration policy has bipartisan support from Labor and the ruling coalition.

Labor MP Melissa Parke, a former lawyer with the United Nations, said the policy was "a sick game that needs to end".

"It's inevitable that the government will need to have another plan for what is going to happen, and the most logical thing to do is to bring those people to Australia," Ms Parke told Fairfax Media.

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