November 29, 2012
SARAH Hanson-Young has appealed directly to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, urging him to personally intervene in the case of Omid, an Iranian man on his 48th day of hunger strike on Nauru.
Omid was readmitted to hospital on Wednesday.
An immigration spokeswoman said the department was taking advice from medical staff, and would act on whatever that advice was. She declined to say whether Omid was being forcibly fed, saying it would be inappropriate to give details of an individual’s medical treatment.
Senator Hanson-Young said Omid’s condition was ”getting worse by the day”.
”I’m calling directly on Minister Bowen to intervene and bring this man to the Australian mainland to ensure he has appropriate medical assistance,” she said.
”And whatever people want to say about the politics on this issue here in this place [parliament], whatever people may think about the no-advantage test, the fact is we have a man who is very close to losing his life. And he is a human being.”
Senator Hanson-Young said the issue was above politics. But she would not say whether he should be fed against his will.
Mr Bowen’s office has been contacted for comment. But Mr Bowen told Labor MPs this week the man would not be transferred to Australia, saying he was receiving the best care possible in the circumstances.
There have been 10 episodes of self-harm at the Nauru processing centre in 24 hours, and Nauru detainees say they were a direct response to the government’s decision to release thousands of recently- arrived asylum seekers into the community.
The Immigration Department confirmed that four acts of self-harm on Tuesday night were followed by another two episodes on Wednesday, saying some of the men received treatment for superficial injuries at the centre and none were transferred to the island’s hospital.
Another four incidents followed late in the afternoon, according to an asylum seeker. ”I cannot express what is happening here,” the man said. ”Everyone is crying and saying, ‘Why am I here?”’
Other asylum seekers said they could not accept they were being treated differently to those whose claims were to be processed on the mainland, when they arrived at the same time, and even on the same boats. ”Why are other friends going to the city [to] take visa while we are here in this worst conditions?” one asked.
The incidents came as a customs vessel intercepted the 142nd boat to attempt to come to Australia since the government accepted all recommendations from its expert panel, including re-opening the centres on Nauru and Manus.
Some 13 people were on the boat, bringing the number to arrive since the announcement on August 13 to 8218.
Detainees on Nauru acknowledged concerns about the conditions of bridging visas that will be offered to those who arrived after August 13, but who cannot be accommodated at centres on Nauru or Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. But they could not understand why they were selected to go to Nauru.
They also asserted that those hurting themselves were suffering depression after being confined to the Nauru centre.
A department spokesman said the 387 asylum seekers living in tents in the centre were receiving ”appropriate medical care”.
On Thursday morning, the Coalition failed in its bid to bring on a debate about temporary protection visas.
Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison tried unsuccessfully to suspend parliamentary proceedings to debate his private members bill to reintroduce TPVs for asylum seekers.
He argued it was crucial the issue be discussed before parliament rises for the year, noting that the imminent monsoon season across South-East Asia was ”the most dangerous period of the year for people to travel on boats to Australia”.
But the government moved a gag motion, ensuring the time for debate ran out.
“It’s the most dangerous time of the year for boat journeys to Australia and the Coalition’s bill would put the crucial policy of Temporary Protection Visas back in the toolkit in the fight against people smugglers to deter them,” Mr Morrison said.
“Despite the necessity of this measure the government opposed the bill before they even saw it.”