In­quest to hear whether Ira­nian refugee set him­self alight with in­ten­tion to die

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines -

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.

Pho­to­graph: REX/Shut­ter­stock

‘This ac­tion will prove how ex­hausted we are. I can­not take it any more,’ Omid Ma­soumali said be­fore he set him­self alight on Nauru.

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