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Saturday 16 April 2016 | Published in Regional


NAURU – A refugee in Nauru has been convicted of attempted suicide.

Sam Nemati pleaded guilty to the charge, which is recognised as a crime in Nauru and, despite being the sole parent of an eight-year-old girl, spent two weeks locked up in February before receiving bail.

Nemati had been held in an Australian-funded detention centre in Nauru for nearly two years before being resettled in the Nauru community.

In late January this year, Nauru police went to the Nibok resettlement area to remove Nemati and his daughter Aysa because they had moved there from another facility without the permission of service provider Connect Settlement Services.

Nemati said Aysa did not like their old centre and wanted to move to Nibok where there were other children she could play with.

Police tried to negotiate with Nemati, asking him to leave the property, but his English was poor, and the officers did not bring a translator.

When Connect officials arrived to remove Nemati’s belongings, he became distressed and attempted to take his own life.

After subduing Nemati, police took him to the island’s hospital for treatment – later that day he was charged with attempted suicide.

Barri Phatarfod from Doctors For Refugees said 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 – 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,” Dr Phatarfod said.

“Nowhere in Australia do you ever see anyone being charged for attempting suicide.”

Due to multiple adjournments, Nemati was held in custody for two weeks before his bail hearing.

During this time, he said he received no mental health counselling.

Nauru police and Nemati have given conflicting accounts of how Aysa was cared for in those two weeks.

The Nauru Police Force told the ABC Aysa was cared for by relatives, with help from Nauru’s Child Protection Unit.

But Nemati said he did not have any relatives in Nauru.

“Me don’t have family. Only friends. Me and Aysa together,” Nemati said.

He said Aysa was left by herself before being taken in by his friends, and rejected statements that the Nauru government or Connect were involved in her care.

Dr Phatarfod was critical of the way authorities responded to Aysa’s needs after the incident.

“This young daughter was effectively dumped by Connect. There’s no other way of looking at it,” Dr Phatafod said.

“Once they decided to prosecute her father, the goal was on making an example of the father and showing him that he can’t self harm and get away with it, and there was absolutely no thought given to the daughter.

“It’s an absolute dereliction of care, it’s just appalling the way they treated her.”

In a statement, the Nauru government said that while the charge was uncommon, it agreed with the prosecutor’s push for a jail sentence.

The government said it was concerned that self-harm was being used as a “method of protest”, and it wanted to stamp out the practice.

When asked about the case, Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection said all refugees in Nauru were subject to that country’s laws, and it would not be appropriate for the department to comment on Nauru’s legal processes. - ABC