Sydney: The governments of Australia and of Nauru – which recently began convicting people for attempting suicide – in response warned others against what they described as acts of “political protest”.
Video footage of the incident, seen by Guardian Australia, shows the 23-year-old Iranian man soaked in liquid, standing in a clearing and shouting to the people around him.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton revealed the 23-year-old would be air-lifted from the Pacific island to hospital in Australia, but made clear that if he survived and recovered he would be sent back.
“I can inform you that there was a 23-year-old male who had originally come from Iran, by boat, was on Nauru and outside of the detention centre, in fact in one of the settlement areas, had set himself alight, self-immolated this morning,” he told a press conference.
“He`s in a very serious condition and the plan is to provide an air-lift for him later tonight but he is in a very, very serious condition and his outlook is not good at all.”
Officials have not said why the man set himself on fire.
The policy has been heavily criticised internationally, including by the UN, and in October Nauru`s Regional Processing Centre was converted into an “open centre”, giving its inhabitants freedom of movement.
It was not clear how long the Iranian had been on Nauru, but Dutton said his self-immolation coincided with a routine visit by a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees delegation.
The Refugee Action Coalition, an activist group, said four others attempted suicide on Tuesday evening by drinking washing powder and were being treated by medical staff on the island.