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Saturday, Sep 6, 2014

World

Family calls for answers as asylum-seeker dies in Australia

AFP | Saturday, Sep 6, 2014

People attend a candlelight vigil in support of asylum seekers, in Melbourne on Feb 23, 2014.

SYDNEY, Australia - A young asylum-seeker has died in Australia, reportedly after a cut to his foot became infected, with his family's lawyer saying Saturday that such a thing "does not happen in a civilised society".

The Iranian man, named by refugee advocates as 24-year-old Hamid Kehazaei, was transferred to Australia from Papua New Guinea last month after reportedly developing septicaemia.

But doctors were unable to save him.

"The man's family late this afternoon provided consent for the withdrawal of his life support," Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement late Friday.

"An imam was present at the time of death and the government of Iran will be informed." Morrison has ordered a review into the medical care the man received at the Manus Island immigration camp in PNG, with refugee advocates claiming his death was the result of neglect.

Under Canberra's hardline immigration policy, asylum-seekers arriving on unauthorised boats are denied resettlement in Australia and sent to PNG or the Pacific island of Nauru.

In offering his condolences, Morrison said the immigration department's chief medical officer was conducting an in-depth clinical review of the man's care.

The minister said he would await the results of this review before making further comments, but noted that "the criticisms that have been made to date are not based on any primary knowledge of the event or the circumstances in this case".

A lawyer for Kehazaei's family, Ruth Hudson, said they were struggling to understand how the young man could die from such an infection.

"They said to me without any reservation that what they want is for justice for Hamid," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"They want answers about the events leading to Hamid's transfer to Australia and how their son, why their son died as a result of such a non-threatening condition whilst in Australia's care. Because this just does not happen in a civilised society." Hudson said an open and independent was inquiry needed to assess whether Kehazaei received antibiotics to treat the infection soon enough.

In February, Iranian asylum-seeker Reza Barati died at PNG's Manus island after enduring a brutal beating during a riot. Another man had his throat cut but survived.

Papua New Guinea police have charged two men over Barati's murder.

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