By Colin Packham
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Authorities in Fiji on Friday deported an Iranian refugee who had used false documents to flee his home in the Pacific Ocean nation of Papua New Guinea (PNG), blaming safety fears and homelessness, two sources said.
The man is one of about 1,200 refugees potentially eligible for resettlement to the United States, although the pact showed signs of strain this week, after President Donald Trump called it a “dumb deal”.
Loghman Sawari, who traveled to Fiji last week, had opted to live freely in PNG in return for the opportunity to leave an Australian offshore detention center where he had been sent four years ago, following an attempt to reach Australia by boat.
Under Australia’s tough border security policy, asylum seekers intercepted on such voyages are sent for processing to camps on PNG’s Manus island and Nauru in the South Pacific. They are never eligible for resettlement in Australia.
But on Friday Sawari was arrested in Fiji and placed on a plane back to PNG, according to the sources, a friend of his in detention in PNG, and an aid worker who has worked with him. Both declined to be identified as the topic is a sensitive one.
Sawari now faces a return to what he described this week as the scene of his “suffering” on PNG’s Manus Island, where he spent a year in detention.
“I cannot go back to Iran, I cannot return to PNG, I want to stay in Fiji,” Sawari told Reuters on Wednesday.
Authorities in the South Pacific nation of Fiji could not immediately be reached for comment.
Humanitarian groups urged PNG authorities to show compassion for Sawari, amid fears for his mental health.
“This is a young man who is clearly at risk in terms of his mental health, and he needs to be given all the care to ensure he doesn’t harm himself,” Graham Thom, a refugee coordinator at human rights group Amnesty International, told Reuters.
About 90 percent of the more than 800 men detained on Manus Island show signs of some form of psychological illness, the United Nations has said.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)