Pacific News Minute: Australian Gov Blames Migrant Advocates for Provoking Self-Immolation Protests

May 4, 2016

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Yesterday, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull set national elections for July second.  The budget and the economy are expected to be the big issues, but immigration policy will be important too, especially after two asylum seekers set themselves on fire as a protest.  We have more on that, from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

The ruling Conservatives got into power four years ago under the slogan, "turn back the boats".  Amid a surge of migrants on often rickety vessels, then party Leader Tony Abbott declared that the way to prevent unsafe voyages, was to make it clear that no one who tried to enter Australia illegally would ever be allowed into the country.  The Australian Navy diverted all migrants to detention camps on remote Islands...Manus, which is part of Papua New Guinea, and the tiny island nation of Nauru.  The Policy did cut the flow of migrants, but it's failed to find new homes for the asylum seekers.  850 men on Manus and 350 men women and children in Nauru have staged mounting protests over endless delays, and what they describe as inhumane conditions, including sexual assaults, verbal and physical abuse.

Last week, an Iranian named Omid Masoumali died after he set himself on fire on Nauru.  This week, it was a 21 year old Somali woman named Hodan Yasin.  In a statement, Australian Immigration minister Peter Dutton blamed advocates for encouraging migrants to mount protests in order to put pressure on the government.  "Advocates who proclaim to represent and support the interests of refugees must frankly hear a very clear message" he said "their activities and these behaviors must end."

Australia's biggest opposition party: Labor, supports the hardline immigration policy...the smaller Greens party bitterly opposes it.