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Protester Sets Himself on Fire at Australian Detention Camp while a Second is Closed

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  Australia's controversial migrant policy faces major new questions today after a protester set himself on fire as UN officials toured the detention camp on Nauru.  Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea ordered Australia's other off-shore run camp to be closed.  More, from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

The self-immolation is the most dramatic in a long series of protests against conditions at the camp in Nauru.  UN Officials were there to investigate charges that extended detention, more than two years in some cases, contributed to mental health problems among asylum seekers.  There have also been charges of physical and sexual abuse.

Even so, the camp that houses 350 men women and children in the tiny island nation may now receive 850 men from the Australian-run camp on remote Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.  Yesterday, that country's Supreme Court ruled that detention of men not charged with any crime violated their constitutional right to personal liberty.  Today, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said the camp would be closed and that he would immediately ask the Australian government to make alternative arrangements.  In a statement to reporters, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said "I can't provide a definitive road map from here." Yesterday, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton insisted that the decision would not change government policy.  Quote: "No one who attempts to travel to Australia illegally by boat will settle in Australia."

The Australian government argues that the policy saves lives by deterring asylum seekers from attempting dangerous voyages.  Critics call it inhumane and unfair. It is certain to become an issue in Australia's upcoming elections - last time, the ruling conservatives campaigned on the slogan, "Turn back the boats."

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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