June 22, 2014
Man on bridging visa fears torture by Sri Lankan authorities if forced to return to his homeland.
Another Tamil asylum-seeker has attempted self-immolation in Melbourne as fear of being returned to torture in Sri Lanka grips the Tamil refugee community in Australia.
The man was taken by ambulance to Dandenong Hospital late last night after he splashed petrol on himself and tried to set himself alight at his house in the south-eastern suburb of Noble Park, according to a statement by the Tamil Refugee Council. His house-mates doused the flames quickly, having been alerted to his plan. He suffered minor burns to a leg and was expected to be discharged later today.
This follows two recent separate incidents of self-immolation by Tamil asylum-seekers. Leo Seemanpillai died after setting himself alight in a Geelong Street on May 31, while another man in Sydney survived after receiving burns to 75 per cent of body in April.
The Noble Park man, 40, who is on a bridging visa awaiting assessment of his claim for a protection, came to Australia by boat in 2012, the Tamil Refugee Council said. He had fled Sri Lanka, leaving behind his wife and young daughter, after he was bashed and had his legs broken by security police. He had learned last week that his brother, who had been in jail for four years, has officially “disappeared”.
A Tamil Refugee Council spokesperson, Sri Samy, who works closely with refugees and asylum seekers in the Dandenong area, said on Saturday that she had been fearing the worst after a number of Tamil asylum-seekers told her that they had lost hope that they would be protected from return to Sri Lanka.
“I have had seven young men tell me in the past few weeks that they are thinking of doing this. They are fearful of being sent back to Sri Lanka and say they would prefer to die here than be sent back to torture, which is what the Australian government is doing to many Tamil asylum-seekers.
“We are very lucky on this occasion that the man’s housemates were aware of what he was planning to do. Otherwise we may have had another death on our hands.”
The previous Labor government, and the current Coalition government, have sent back more than 1000 Tamil asylum-seekers under an “enhanced” screening process that does not allow time for proper assessment of asylum claims. The immigration minister, Scott Morrison, has said he wants to see all Sri Lankan asylum-seekers returned.
The Tamil Refugee Council called on Morrison to act now, and abide by his legal requirement to provide protection to genuine refugees, in order to alleviate the fear amongst Tamils and stop further deaths.