Asylum seeker advocate groups have hit back at claims from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton that advocates are encouraging asylum seekers to self-harm.
Tensions have increased in Nauru in recent weeks with more cases of self-harm, the most recent being when 21-year-old Somalian woman Hodan Yasin lit herself on fire on Monday. She is now being treated at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s hospital.
Last week Omid Masoumali, 23, died after also setting himself on fire.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said advocates were to blame.
“The behaviours have intensified in recent times and as we see they’ve now turned into extreme acts with terrible consequences,” he said.
“Our appeal to all advocates that their intentions may be honourable in their own minds but they are causing serious harm and we’re not going to tolerate that.
“People who suggest that resisting the government’s policy is going to twist our arm. We’re not going to stand for that.”
Michelle Bui from the Refugee Rights Action Network said advocates did not encourage asylum seekers to self-harm. They only ever tried to help them, she said.
Ms Bui also said Nauru was not an appropriate place for asylum seekers.
“Nauru is not a viable resettlement plan for the refugees as there are over a 100,000 citizens of Nauru alongside thousands of refugees,” she said.
“The island is not equipped to handle that many people and for many of the refugees going back to their home country is not an option.”
The network is also fighting hard to change the tide of public opinion about asylum seekers, setting up a phone account that allows detainees to call Australian advocates to provide information from within the detention centre.
“Most of the information channels that we get from Nauru are all via government-officiated sources, which means we learn about the island from the government’s viewpoint,” she said.
“With this phone credit, we have already heard from communities in Nauru reaching out to us for help and we hope to continue in helping them anyway we can.”
Spokesperson for the Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees Pamela Curr said that Duttons claim was rubbish.
“The last thing we want to do is see them harm themselves. Minister Dutton made these accusations about Save the Children on Nauru, and subsequent investigations found they were absolutely baseless.
“Looking at the situation on Manus and Nauru, where they’ve been subjected to the most appalling living conditions, violence and abuse, if they could return home they would do so.” she said.