SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Iranian refugee bound for Australia, who was sent to a controversial asylum camp in Papua New Guinea (PNG), fled to Fiji and was then deported back again to PNG, has now been charged with using false documents, police said on Sunday.
The case of Loghman Sawari, one of about 1,200 refugees potentially eligible for resettlement under an agreement with the United States, has drawn world attention to Australia’s tough line on immigration - and to what U.S. President Donald Trump has branded a “dumb deal” on resettlement.
Kurdish Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani, who has been detained on Manus Island, part of PNG in the South Pacific, for nearly four years, said Sawari had contacted him on Saturday night.
“I can only say that he was too scared and in shock,” he said via WhatsApp.
Sawari fled PNG for Fiji due to homelessness and safety fears, he told Reuters last week.
Humanitarian groups have urged PNG to show compassion for Sawari amid fears for his mental health.
Asylum seekers intercepted attempting to reach Australia by boat are sent for processing to camps on Manus and on Nauru in the South Pacific. They are never eligible for resettlement in Australia.
Sawari opted to live freely in PNG in return for the opportunity to leave the detention center where he had been sent four years ago after trying to reach Australia by boat.
Sawari, who traveled to Fiji last week, was deported and charged on return with falsifying passport documents on Friday, said Inspector Robert Wane, the commander of the Port Moresby International Airport police.
He had been remanded in custody and would face court next week, Wane said.
The resettlement deal, negotiated by Australia with the administration of Barack Obama, strained ties between the two allies last week.
Trump has reluctantly agreed to honor it, but detainees and an official source told Reuters on Friday U.S. immigration officials had postponed interviews with asylum seekers.
Editing by Nick Macfie