CANBERRA, Australia – A Somali refugee was critically injured when she set herself on fire at an Australian immigration camp on the Pacific island nation of Nauru three days after an Iranian refugee died of injuries sustained in a similar apparent protest, officials said.
The 21-year-old woman was flown 4,500 kilometres (2,800 miles) from Nauru to the Australian city of Brisbane on Tuesday after setting herself on fire on Monday, the Nauru and Australia governments said.
A 23-year-old man died in the same Royal Brisbane Hospital on Friday after setting himself alight two days earlier in an apparent protest over Australia’s strict asylum seeker policies.
His actions were a protest intended to coincide with a visit to the island by representatives of the U.N. refugee agency, Nauru’s government said.
“Both patients have received the utmost care, treatment and consideration both in Nauru and in Australia,” Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told reporters.
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Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said that in November the woman had suffered serious head injuries on Nauru and had been flown to Brisbane for treatment.
She was among three refugees who were taken from a Brisbane immigration detention centre where she was recuperating on Wednesday last week and flown back to Nauru, Rintoul said.
“She was on 24-hour mental health watch because of a number of attempts at suicide inside the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation,” Rintoul said. “It raises particular questions about the duty of care.”
Australia refuses to accept asylum seekers who try to reach its shores by boat and pays Nauru and Papua New Guinea to hold them in immigration camps instead.
The divisive policy has faced fresh criticism in the wake of the man’s death and a court decision last week that dubbed Australia’s detention of asylum seekers on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island as unconstitutional.
Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said he would close the Manus centre after the island nation’s Supreme Court ruled that detaining asylum seekers and refugees there was a violation of their constitutional right to personal liberty.
The decision has sent Australian officials scrambling to find a solution, with O’Neill asking Australia to immediately make alternative arrangements for the centre’s 900 detainees.