Sydney (AFP) – A refugee has been convicted of attempted suicide after being moved from an Australian-funded detention camp on the Pacific island of Nauru in a decision described as “sickening”.
Prosecutors had pressed for jail time of one to two months, arguing a tough response was needed as a deterrent to those using self-harm “to get what they want”, but he was instead reportedly fined Aus$200 ($154).
“This is sickening. Nauru Govt has charged a refugee with ‘attempted suicide’ after trying to take his own life,” Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young tweeted late Friday.
A statement from the Nauru government dated April 12 said the man, the father of an eight-year-old girl, pleaded guilty to the charge, which is a “criminal offence” under Nauru law, following a disturbance at Nibok lodge in January.
“Written submissions were made by the prosecutor to impose a custodial sentence of between one and two months to deter other offenders who resort to self-harm to avoid lawful actions against them or to get what they want,” the statement said.
“We are concerned this method is being used and want to stamp out this practice.”
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said the Iranian man, Sam Nemati, had been held in an Australian-funded detention centre on Nauru for nearly two years before being resettled in the community.
In late January, Nauru police went to the Nibok resettlement area to remove him and his daughter Aysa because they had moved there from another facility without permission.
Nemati told the broadcaster Aysa did not like their old centre and wanted to be with other children she could play with.
When officials tried to remove their belongings, Nemati became distressed and attempted to take his own life. He was taken to hospital before being charged.
Barri Phatarfod from Doctors For Refugees told ABC the justice system was not the right place to tackle the issue of suicide.
“It’s entirely inappropriate to make it a criminal offence to attempt suicide,” he said.
“It just shows that the (Australian) government’s statement that the people in Nauru are going to be cared for by the same standards that we care for people in Australia is just an outright lie.
“Nowhere in Australia do you ever see anyone being charged for attempting suicide.”
Under Canberra’s harsh immigration policy, asylum-seekers who try to reach Australia by boat are turned back or sent to Pacific camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea where they are held indefinitely while their refugee applications are processed.
They are blocked from resettling in Australia even if found to be refugees.