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Australia: Refugee death highlights fatal flaws in offshore processing

    April 29, 2016

    The death of another refugee in an Australian-run detention centre on Nauru demonstrates the fatal flaws of a system that must be brought to an end, Amnesty International said today.

    “The desperate actions of this refugee underscore the perilous circumstances found in offshore processing centres run by the Australian government. As Amnesty International has been stressing for several years now, the current system is cruel, inhuman and needs to end,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Senior Research Adviser for South East Asia and the Pacific.

    A 23-year-old Iranian man known as Omid died in hospital in Brisbane, Australian officials confirmed, after reportedly being held for three years at the Australian-run facility on the Pacific island of Nauru. Omid had been granted refugee status. 

    “We have received reports of rape, sexual harassment and physical and psychological abuse at these centres, and this most recent death is another sad example of how Australia is letting down some of the world’s most vulnerable people,” said Champa Patel.

    Omid was airlifted to Brisbane on Thursday with third-degree burns to most of his torso after he set himself on fire a day earlier.

    “This is just another case that highlights the dismal failures of health care on Nauru, which is ill-equipped to deal with refugees suffering serious psychological conditions, often as a result of trauma. The circumstances leading to Omid’s death must be fully investigated,” said Champa Patel.


    Australia’s transfer of asylum seekers to process their claims in detention facilities in Nauru and on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island has amounted to refoulement – sending them to countries where they are subjected to human rights violations.

    The practice violates Australia’s obligations under both international refugee and human rights law and standards.

    An Amnesty International report in November 2013 found that refugees and asylum-seekers detained in Nauru were living in cramped conditions, suffered from both physical and mental ailments, and routinely had their human rights violated.

    Amnesty International has reported that the deliberately harsh, humiliating conditions there were designed to pressure asylum seekers to return to their country of origin, regardless of whether or not they were refugees.

    Amnesty International is calling on the Australian government to end offshore processing, and to bring those people sent to Nauru and Manus Island back to Australia to have their refugee claims fairly assessed.


    For further information, please contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332