Sri Lankan asylum seeker dies from his burns after Australian visa protest

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 1:41am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 1:41am


A Sri Lankan asylum seeker has died after setting himself on fire while awaiting a visa decision in Australia, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday, with a Tamil group claiming that he was "living in great fear".

Leorsin Seemanpillai, 29, was living in Geelong, outside Melbourne, after being granted a temporary visa a year ago. He suffered burns to 90 per cent of his body on Saturday and died in hospital on Sunday.

"This man sadly died as a result of a very serious set of injuries that were self-inflicted," Morrison said. "I don't think we are in any position … to draw any conclusions about what is a person's mind in that situation."

Aran Mylvaganam of the Tamil Refugee Council, who was at his bedside in hospital and knew him for a year, said he was "living in great fear" of being sent back to Sri Lanka, where he believed his life would be in danger.

"The immigration officials have been harassing him on many occasions where they wanted him to voluntarily leave," he said.

"There was no doubt that the Australian government's cruel and inhumane policy has pushed him to do this."

Morrison said Seemanpillai was given "no indication that he was being removed anywhere".

Seemanpillai, who arrived by boat in Australia in January 2013, was receiving community mental health support, he said.

The death came as activists said seven Iranian asylum seekers sewed their lips shut on Sunday in a mass hunger strike at an immigration detention centre on Christmas Island, Australia's outpost in the Indian Ocean.

About 400 asylum seekers were refusing food as part of a protest against the death of Iranian Reza Barati, who was killed in a riot this year at another Australian detention centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.