Australia blamed refugee advocates on Tuesday for “encouraging” asylum seekers held in remote camps towards acts of self-harm after a woman set herself on fire, while the United Nations renewed its criticism of Australia’s harsh immigration policy.

Australian officials said an unidentified 21-year-old Somali woman was in a critical condition after she set herself alight at an Australian detention camp on the tiny South Pacific island of Nauru on Monday, the second such incident in a week.

A 23-year-old Iranian man also set himself on fire last week in protest against his treatment on Nauru and later died. The Somali woman has been transferred to Australia for treatment, officials said.

Under Australia’s hardline immigration policy, asylum seekers intercepted trying to reach Australia after paying people smugglers are sent for processing to camps on Nauru, which holds about 500 people, and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. They are told they will never be settled in Australia.

The Papua New Guinea government ordered the Manus Island camp, which holds about 850 people, closed last week after its Supreme Court ruled the facility unlawful.

The harsh conditions and reports of systemic child abuse at the camps have drawn wide criticism inside and outside Australia and have become a major headache for Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during campaigning for likely July elections.

Australia however has vowed there will be no change to the policy, which has been pursued by successive governments.

On Tuesday, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton acknowledged there had been a rise in cases of self-harm in the camps but accused refugee advocates of giving the asylum seekers false hope they would one day be settled in Australia.

Source: Australia blames refugee advocates after asylum seeker sets herself alight | Reuters

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