Asylum seeker from Sri Lanka dies after setting himself on fire in Australia

This article is more than 12 months old

A Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seeker has died from the injuries he sustained after setting himself on fire last Saturday, the Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said this morning (June 2).

Leorsin Seemanpillai, 29, suffered burns to 90 per cent of his body and he died as a result of those injuries. 

He arrived in Australia in January last year and was receiving community mental health support while his refugee application was being processed, AFP reported.

 “...I don’t think we are in any position, and I frankly don’t think anyone else is any position, to draw any conclusions about what is a person’s mind in that situation,” said Mr Morrison.

" I can also advise that the last case worker contact with Mr Seemanpillai was on Friday, May 30, and I am advised that there was no concern or indication of any suicidal intention... at that time,” he added.

Australian authorities have contacted Mr Seemanpillai's father who have requested a that a funeral be done for his son in Australia.

Rising violence in Australian immigration detention centres

Seemanpillai's 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 – an Australian outpost in the Indian Ocean. 

Activists said 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. 

Morrison said Monday that protests were not uncommon at detention centres and that the matter was “well in hand”.  Under Australia’s tough refugee policy, asylum-seekers who arrived by boat after July 2013 have been sent to detention centres on Manus Island or Nauru in the Pacific for processing and permanent resettlement. 

While most boat people come via Indonesia, many have also attempted the difficult trip from Sri Lanka, where they claim persecution over the country’s Tamil separatist conflict.  Australia has sent back dozens of Sri Lankan nationals who tried to enter the country illegally. 

According to the immigration department, more than 24,000 asylum-seekers are living in Australia on bridging visas of the type Seemanpillai was on.  A further 2,450 asylum-seekers are being held on Nauru and Manus Island and another 823 are detained on Christmas Island.

Source: AFP.