Inquest to hear whether Iranian refugee set himself alight with intention to die
It took 31 hours for the Australian government to get Omid Masoumali to a specialist burns unit after the Iranian refugee set himself alight to protest conditions on Nauru.
Frustrated after being stuck on the island for almost three years, the 24year-old set himself alight in front of officials from the United Nations Refugee Agency in April 2016.
Some media reported the incident as self-immolation.
“This is how tired we are, this action will prove how exhausted we are. I cannot take it any more,” he reportedly said.
His death will be investigated next year by the state coroner, who will hear Masoumali’s fiancee suggesting he didn’t intend to take his own life, counsel assisting Megan Jarvis told a preinquest conference on Thursday.
Masoumali was taken to Nauru Hospital after bystanders used a blanket to smother the flames about 10am on April 27.
Local and international medical staff said he needed to be urgently sent to a specialist burns unit if he were to survive.
CareFlight Queensland was called to medically evacuate him but didn’t arrive until sunrise the following day.
Masoumali arrived in Brisbane about mid-afternoon on April 28, when an ambulance drove the badly burned man to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.
He arrived about 3pm, some 31 hours after he had set himself alight.
It is understood he died the following day from multiple organ failure with burns to 57% of his body.
It is also suspected Masoumali sustained a hypoxic-ischaemic brain injury due to poor oxygen and blood supply, along with severe tissue damage to all four limbs.
At the time of his death, he was considered an “unlawful non-citizen” under Australian law and, although in hospital, was technically in the custody of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection security staff.
It aroused significant concern in both the Australian and international community, Jarvis said.
The coroner is expected to probe whether more could have been done to prevent the death, along with the health and medical evacuation services provided.
The circumstances leading up to Masoumali’s decision to set fire to his own clothing will also be examined, however, it will not investigate Australia’s treatment of, or its obligation to, him as a refugee.
“The inquest into Omid’s death may not achieve all that the family or the broader community may hope,” Jarvis said.
The inquest is expected in February 2019.
‘This action will prove how exhausted we are. I cannot take it any more,’ Omid Masoumali said before he set himself alight on Nauru.