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Burnings Bring Attention to Asylum-Seekers in Australian Camps

Burnings Bring Attention to Asylum-Seekers in Australian Camps
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A 21-year old Somali refugee is critically injured after setting herself on fire on Nauru, a tiny South Pacific republic.

Australia operates a detention camp on the island.

Some people are criticizing Australia for its refugee policy. However, Australia has said refugee supporters are putting pressure on migrants to harm themselves for the attention it will bring.

The 21-year old refugee Hodan Yasin has been taken to a hospital in the Australian city of Brisbane. She is in a critical condition after setting herself on fire Monday.

Protesters hold placards at a "Stand up for Refugees" rally held in central Sydney, Oct. 11, 2014.
Protesters hold placards at a "Stand up for Refugees" rally held in central Sydney, Oct. 11, 2014.

Refugee advocates say the injured woman was distressed after she was sent back to the South Pacific island. Before this incident, she had received medical treatment in Australia for injuries from a road accident.

Last week, a 23-year old Iranian asylum seeker died after he set himself on fire at the migrant center on Nauru.

It is one of two camps operated by Australia as part of a policy to stop asylum seekers from reaching its northern waters by boat. Even if detainees are found to be refugees, they are not permitted to resettle in Australia.

Australian Greens party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says her country is not supporting people who need help.

“They have been found to be refugees, therefore they deserve to be looked after and given an opportunity to rebuild their lives. We should not be having languishing on Nauru even now, let alone for years and years to come. We should end this suffering and bring these people to Australia and allow them to get on with their lives.”

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has accused refugee supporters of increasing tensions on Nauru. He says they have encouraged migrants to take extreme measures to try to force Australia to change its border protection policies.

Australia sends Asylum seekers trying to reach Australia by sea to either Manus Island in Papua New Guinea or to Nauru.

Officials in the capital Canberra say the policy has reduced the steady flow of migrants trying to reach Australia by boat.

Last week, the government of Papua New Guinea said it would close the Australian facility on Manus Island after the country’s Supreme Court ruled it illegal.

Also, media reports say a boat carrying Sri Lankan asylum seekers has reportedly arrived on the Cocos Islands, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean. If the arrival is confirmed, it would be the first refugee ship to have reached Australian waters in almost two years.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Phil Mercer reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

Do you have an opinion about the refugees on Nauru? Please let us know what you think in the comments, and post on our Facebook page, thank you.


Words in This Story

advocates – n. someone who argues in support of a cause or person

distressed – adj. feeling or showing unhappiness or pain

detainees – n. a person who is being detained

encourage – v. to make someone more likely to do something