A Sri Lankan asylum seeker on a bridging visa is fighting for his life after dousing himself in petrol following a decision by the Australian immigration department to deport him back to Sri Lanka.
The man, whose first name is Janarthanan and who is in his late 20s, was on a bridging visa and had been working as a cleaner in Sydney’s inner-western suburb of Balmain.
The Tamil asylum seeker, who had been living in Australia for at least 18 months, was this week told by the department that his application for a permanent protection visa had been denied and he would have to return to Sri Lanka, the convenor of the Tamil Refugee Council, Trevor Grant, said.
On Wednesday night Janarthanan doused himself in petrol and set himself alight shortly after 8.30pm near the shipyard in Balmain, causing severe burns to 98 per cent of his body. It is unlikely that he will survive, Mr Grant said.
NSW police confirmed the man was in a ”critical condition” in Concord Hospital on Thursday night.
Janarthanan, who had come to Australia after fleeing the Sri Lankan authorities, had left a suicide note saying he would rather die in Australia than die in Sri Lanka, Mr Grant said. Tamil asylum seekers are living in continual fear that they will be sent back to Sri Lanka, he said.
A report by the Human Rights Law Centre last month showed many asylum seekers who are sent back to the country face the threat of torture from the very authorities they had fled. Late last month the United Nations Human Rights Council ordered an international investigation into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka. Australia did not co-sponsor the bill.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said it was a “deeply distressing incident.”
“The government’s focus is to ensure for the proper care and support of this young man, in partnership with the Sri Lankan High Commission,” a spokesman for Mr Morrison said.
The government confirmed that the young man “was found not to be owed protection and this decision was affirmed on appeal by the Refugee Review Tribunal earlier this month.”