Nauru refugee sets himself on fire in protest, man in critical condition, Peter Dutton says.

By political reporter Stephanie Anderson and Sarah Farnsworth

A refugee remains in a critical condition after setting himself on fire on Nauru, in what the Nauruan Government has described as a “political protest”.

An immediate medical evacuation has been requested for the 23-year-old Iranian.

A video obtained by the ABC appears to show a man suffering burns to large portions of his body,after he set himself on fire outside the centre earlier today.

He is heard moaning.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that Australia was planning to “provide an air lift for him later tonight”.

But Mr Dutton said the man remained in a “very serious condition”.

“He is in a very, very serious condition and his outlook is not good at all,” he said.

Mr Dutton also confirmed that there had been other incidents of self-harm at the centre.

“There have been other incidents where people have self-harmed or sought to self-harm,” he said.

“What we’ve been very clear about is that if people come to Australia for medical assistance they’ll be returning back to Nauru once that medical assistance has been provided.

“We have returned three people back to Nauru from Australia and they have returned because the medical assistance that they sought in Australia has been provided.”

UNHCR staff witnessed protest
The incident coincided with a visit from three Canberra-based UNHCR staff, who all witnessed the man’s actions.

The ABC understands the man is named Omid Saki and has been on Nauru for three years.

An Iranian woman witnessed the incident and told the ABC that Omid got distressed during a meeting with UNHCR staff.

“He got very angry and distressed and burnt himself,” she said.

“None of them helped. None of them called an ambulance, they just called the police and ran away.


“Doctors didn’t know what to do. They didn’t have supplies to help him.”

She said doctors have informed her that Omid suffered burns to 50 per cent of his body “and he might die”.

Influence of refugee advocates criticised

In a statement, the Nauruan Government said the man “set himself on fire, while making a political protest to coincide with the visit by representatives from UNHCR”.

The statement also cited the influence of the refugee community on Nauru, who they state are trying to influence the immigration policies of the Australian Government.

“The Government of Nauru continues to urge our refugee community to refrain from such protests for the protection of themselves and others,” it stated.

Mr Dutton made similar comments directed at refugee advocates, saying that the mixed messages to asylum seekers were “not helpful”.

“Nauru has invested considerable time and money into services to assist the refugee community socially, emotionally, medically and vocationally, and to ensure all refugees are safe in our country. There is no value in such behaviour.”

The incident follows a disturbance at the centre earlier this month, when chairs and tables were thrown at staff.

Two asylum seekers received medical treatment following the disturbance at the centre, which according to the latest update from Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection still held 468 people “under open centre arrangements”.

Asylum seeker advocates had also previously circulated photos of graffiti, they claim is from inside the centre, insulting Australian Border Force workers.

The incident coincides with a ruling from Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court, which yesterday stated that ruled Australia’s detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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