Human Rights

Rejected Tamil asylum seeker self-immolates in Sydney

A Tamil asylum-seeker set himself on fire in Sydney Wednesday (09) night after his appeal for refugee status was rejected.

The man, believed to be in his late 20s, was taken to Concord Hospital after dousing himself in petrol outside his workplace in Balmain and setting himself alight. He has burns to about 98 per cent of his body. He is in an induced coma, having undergone at least two skin-graft operations. Doctors have told friends to organise for his 65-year-old mother and his brother to come to Australia urgently.

A friend, Balasingham Prabhakaran, said today the man, who is from the Batticaloa region in eastern Sri Lanka, had received a letter from the Immigration department telling him his application for a protection visa in Australia had been rejected and he must to return to Sri Lanka. He has been living in the community on a bridging visa for at least 18 months after fleeing Sri Lanka because of threats from authorities.

“He has told me he has a genuine fear about being sent back to Sri Lanka,” said Prabhakaran, who runs a 24-hour Tamil radio station in Sydney, Inbathamil Oli.

“He was very disillusioned after getting the letter on Tuesday. He rang many of his friends to say ‘hi’, and then after he finished his work as an office cleaner about 8.30 p.m., he went outside, and set himself alight. Apparently he swallowed the petrol before pouring it on himself. A number of workers from a nearby shipyard came to his aid, pouring water on him and trying to put out the flames.

“He had the can of petrol in his bag. It was obviously planned. They also found the rejection letter from Immigration and a two-page suicide note in his bag.”

Tamil Refugee Council spokesman, Aran Mylvaganam, said this sad case was further proof that the Australian government’s refugee policy was creating desperation among refugee and asylum-seeker communities. “I suppose the Minister for Immigration will just shrug this off as more collateral damage in the war on asylum-seekers,” he said.

© JDS