Medivac For Burnt Refugee Took 24 Hours To Arrive, Refugee Advocates Claim

28/04/2016 12:39 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
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Fairfax Media

A medical aircraft to treat and transport an Iranian refugee on Nauru who set himself alight did not arrive until 24 hours after the incident, refugee advocates claim.

A 23-year-old man named Omid self-immolated on Wednesday in protest over the conditions on Nauru, the same day representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees visited the island and detention centre. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said on Wednesday that "the plan is to provide an airlift for him later tonight" but Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition said that plan did not come to fruition.

"It only left Nauru about [9am AEST]," Rintoul told The Huffington Post Australia.

"That's very definite, we know people who went to the plane with Omid. It's on its way to Brisbane."

Rintoul said the flight was a small Aeromed learjet operated by Careflight Queensland. A plane bearing the same registration number as a Careflight-operated jet arrived on Nauru around at 4.47am AEST (6.47am Nauru time) on Thursday, and departed for Honiara at 9am AEST (11am Nauru time). The jet then continued on to Brisbane and was scheduled to arrive at 2.10pm AEST.

A spokeswoman for Careflight confirmed one of the organisations planes had landed on Nauru on Thursday, but could not confirm any more details. The Government of Nauru Twitter account confirmed the time of departure.

HuffPost Australia submitted questions to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection about the arrival and departure of the medical flight, but did not receive a response by publication time.

"Its a disgrace. This person needed very specialised treatment and Dutton said it was expected to arrive [Wednesday} but it didn't arrive until today. That's 24 hours since the incident more than 24 hours since the incident," Rintoul said.

"To leave someone that long... there is neither the experience nor the equipment to treat him properly [on Nauru]."

Rintoul said Omid was being heavily medicated and was "definitely in critical condition, it'll be a miracle if he comes through." He hoped Omid's wife would be allowed to come to Australia to stay with him in hospital. HuffPost Australia has received unconfirmed reports the man's wife has been placed on a plane and is en route to Australia.

The issue of offshore detention has exploded in recent days, with the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea ruling that Australia's processing centre on Manus Island was unconstitutional and illegal. At the same time, as the government flags the option of moving the 850 men on Manus to Nauru -- "There is capacity [on Nauru]," Dutton told Sky News on Thursday -- a string of self-harm incidents on Nauru have shown that option to be fraught with controversy too.

Dutton and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have been answering questions about the dual detention centres since the PNG court decision. Fairfax Media reported on Wednesday that Australia was negotiating with Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia to take refugees and asylum seekers, but both the government and opposition have voiced support for a new plan that would work around PNG's laws and allow the Manus men to remain.

"I think there is an opportunity for the detention centre to remain in place in a different form, perhaps an open centre arrangement,' Dutton told 2GB radio.

Dutton's opposition counterpart, Richard Marles, said the government should talk to the PNG government about either changing the law, or offering money.

"All of those options need to be talked through with the PNG government," he said.

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