Iranian man's suicide latest in Australia's offshore migrant detention policy

Iranian man's suicide latest in Australia's offshore migrant detention policy
3 min read
15 June, 2018
A young Iranian man appears to have committed suicide on the remote island of Nauru after being sent there five years ago by Australia's offshore detention regime.
Some 1,600 people remain on Nauru and Manus [Getty]

An Iranian asylum-seeker was found dead on Friday in what appears to be an apparent suicide on the remote island of Nauru, nearly five years after Australia sent him to the tiny Pacific nation.

Refugees who attempt to enter Australia are sent to camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island and barred from resettling in Australia.

The harsh policy is designed to deter people embarking on treacherous sea journeys, but the United Nations and other rights groups have criticised the camps' conditions and long detention periods.

Australia's home affairs department said it was aware of the death on Nauru but referred further enquiries to authorities in that country.

"News of the man's death has shattered the asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru," said Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition, noting that the 26-year old had died from an apparent suicide, with the exact means yet to be confirmed.

"He was a well known, well liked, athletic young man who did everything he could for his brother and mother."

The man's family said he suffered from depression and had made pleas to Canberra to help him.

Rintoul said the Australian government had continually ignored calls for support, with all refugees offshore suffering from varying mental health issues.

"There have been so many warnings, but the toll mounts day by day; the neglect continues," he said. "So many cases of medical neglect."

This is the fifth death on Nauru since Australia's offshore detention regime began in July 2013, Rintoul said.

A Rohingya refugee from Myanmar died last month on Manus Island after jumping from a bus - the seventh asylum-seeker death there since 2013.

Canberra has tried to resettle those recognised as refugees to third countries such as the US, and more than a hundred have been moved there, according to refugee advocates.

Former President Barack Obama's administration agreed to accept up to 1,250 of Australia's refugees - mostly from Iran, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka - in a deal some saw as repayment for Australia agreeing to accept Honduran and Salvadoran refugees under a US-led resettlement programme from a camp in Costa Rica.

President Donald Trump described the deal as "dumb" but has agreed to honour it subject to "extreme vetting" of refugees.

Australia will not settle any refugees who try to arrive by boat - a policy that the government says dissuades asylum seekers from attempting the dangerous and occasionally deadly ocean crossing from Indonesia.

Australia instead pays Papua New Guinea and Nauru to house asylum seekers in camps that have been plagued by reports of abuse and draconian conditions. 

The Refugee Action Coalition says 1,600 people remain on Nauru and Manus, some of whom have been in the island camps for more than four years.