Immigration

Dying Nauru refugee speaks out as Muslim leaders plead for transfer

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A major Shia Muslim body has urged Peter Dutton to allow an Afghan refugee to go to Australia for palliative care.

An Afghan refugee on Nauru who is dying from lung cancer has thanked supporters petitioning to have him spend his final days in Australian palliative care.

His message comes as a peak Shia Muslim body urges the federal government to be “brave” and allow him to be buried in Australia according to his religious beliefs.

Advocates say the Hazara man, known as Ali, has been told by medical experts he may only have weeks to live.

The case has prompted hundreds of doctors and thousands of Australians in separate petitions to call on Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to allow him to be brought onshore for palliative care.

Over 2,000 doctors have now signed an open letter pleading to Mr Dutton to bring him to Australia, saying Nauru was not an appropriate place for him to die.

“Australia has accepted this man as a legitimate refugee. This means Australia is obligated by International Conventions to care for his physical and mental health, whether he is on the mainland, or off shore,” the letter reads.

It’s understood the Home Affairs Department has offered to send Ali to Taiwan instead, but the Australian Medical Association says this won’t work for him.

“There is no Hazara community there, no family, no-one to translate, and no-one to perform the Shia Muslim rituals after his death,” the peak doctor’s lobby group said in a statement.

A separate petition from the Australian Women in Support of Women on Nauru group has garnered more than 23,000 signatures.

Ali has issued a statement through refugee advocates thanking supporters.

“The news about the petition supporting me, so many people, has made me very happy and given me some hope.

“I will pray for all the good people. I can't do anything else."

The Supreme Islamic Shiite Council of Australia has urged the government not to treat the case as a political but humanitarian one.

The Council's Sheikh Kamal Mousselmani says Ali’s wishes to have a Shia burial should be respected.

“If he knows that he is not going to be buried in a religious way (he would believe) his soul won’t be rested in peace,” he told SBS News.

“We urge the minister Peter Dutton to take a brave approach to bring Ali onshore.”

A spokesperson for the Home Affairs Department said it would not comment on individual cases.

“Medical transfer decisions occur on a case-by-case basis according to clinical need, in consultation with the contracted health services provider and the Government of Nauru,” the spokesperson said in a statement to SBS News.

“Medical transfers are only undertaken with the permission of the individual.”

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