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Wednesday 4 May 2016 | Published in Regional


AUSTRALIA – Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has hit out at “advocates and others” who he believes are pressuring refugees to “behave in a certain way”, saying the Federal Government will not be persuaded to change its border protection policies.

Twenty-one-year-old Somali refugee Hodan Yasin has been transferred to Australia in a critical condition after setting herself on fire on Monday.

It follows the death of Iranian asylum seeker Omid Masoumali, who also self-immolated on the island.

Speaking in Canberra on Tuesday morning, Dutton accused advocates of providing false hope to those have been held in offshore detention.

“I have previously expressed my frustration and anger at advocates and others who are in contact with those in regional processing centres and who are encouraging some of these people to behave in a certain way, believing that pressure exerted on the Australian Government will see a change in our policy in relation to our border protection measures,” Dutton said.

“They can oppose government policy and espouse a cause for open borders, but that is not the policy of this government, and no action advocates or those in regional processing countries will cause the government to deviate from its course.”

The Federal Government said last night’s federal budget will see the closure of more immigration detention centres.

Dutton told Parliament he would close 17 detention centres that were opened by the former Labor government.

“We have worked tirelessly since the day we were first elected to make sure that we could keep the people smugglers out of business, to make sure we could close the detention centres,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Minister declined to say which centres would be on the list.

Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre said advocates such as herself were trying to keep the detainees calm and give them something to hold on to.

“I know that there are advocates out there, like me, who are texting, messaging, WhatsApping all the time,” she said.

Curr said advocates were telling detainees to “try and stay calm, keep feeling hopeful, don’t go into the ocean”, referring to women wanting to drown themselves.

“Of course we don’t want them to hurt themselves,” she said.

Curr said she knew Hodan Yasin and said the woman was “beside herself with distress” after being returned to Nauru from Australia.

Dutton has insisted Yasin was receiving the “utmost care” after being flown from Nauru to a Brisbane hospital.

“It is of grave concern that this person would resort to such an extreme act of self-harm,” he said.

And he accused asylum seeker advocates of contributing to the increased tensions in Nauru.

“The behaviours have intensified in recent times and as we see, they have now turned to extreme acts with terrible consequences,” he said.

Dutton also denied the recent protests are in response to living conditions on Nauru and Manus Island.

“There is not a complaint about the living conditions, the medical services, the education, the 300 people or so who are employed on Nauru, the 30-odd who have started up small businesses,” he said.

“These complaints are largely because these people want to come to Australia.

“I can understand that people have paid thousands of dollars to a people smuggler and they want to come to our country.”

He also confirmed Yasin had previously been transferred to Australia and received medical assistance, before being cleared to be returned to Nauru.

Greens immigration spokesman Sarah Hanson-Young said Yasin had been “driven to despair” after being forced to go back to Nauru.

“The situation on Nauru is spiralling dangerously out of control,” she said in a statement.

“Malcolm Turnbull must show these people some decency and give them hope because the brutality of this policy is killing people.”