A 40-year old Eezham Tamil, who was seeking asylum in Australia, has attempted self-immolation in Melbourne on Friday evening. The Tamil man, who hails from the Eastern part of the Eezham Tamil homeland, was rescued by his friends and escaped with minor burns, sources from Melbourne said. This follows the tragic incident of Leo Seemanpillai, another refugee, who had self-immolated on 31 May and succumbed to his burns on 01 June. Tamil activists in Australia who are working with refugees are gravely concerned that this trend is likely to be repeated in the future, mainly because the nexus between the Australian government and the genocidal Sri Lankan State facilitates a brutal policy towards Eezham Tamil refugees in Australia.
The Tamil refugee who attempted self-immolation on Friday has been staying in Australia since 2012, waiting for a positive verdict on his status. Sources in Melbourne inform that last week his brother “disappeared” in his home country and the suspicion falls on the occupying military of Colombo.
However, the Australian government, whose foreign policy favours good relationship with ‘Sri Lanka’, has been exhibiting a negative approach to Tamil refugees for quite some time now, despite evidence that refugees sent back have faced brutal torture.
Observers also note that the Colombo government’s agents have an insidious role in human-trafficking refugees out of the island through highly unsafe transport means after extorting money from them. Later, when these refugees are rejected asylum in Australia, the deal between the two states results in the refugees being sent back.
It is in this climate of fear of deportation and eventual persecution by the Sinhala State that Tamil asylum seekers are resorting to drastic steps.
In April, a Sydney based refugee attempted self-immolation and survived with 75% burns. 0n 01 June, 29 year old Leo Seemanpillai succumbed to over 90% burns on his body.
Speaking to TamilNet about the disturbing developments, Aran Mylvaganam, a youth activist working with the Tamil Refugee Council, said “Leo Seemanpillai was just 29 years of age and had everything to live for. But the psychological suffering he has been put through by the Australian Government’s cruel, inhuman policies pushed him to the point where he believed he no longer had anything to live for.”
“Like thousands of others, Leo had been waiting for more than 18 months to be told whehter he could stay in Australia and be safe from persecution. Leo was well aware, of the impending results through the statements from the Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison. The Minister wanted to send back all Tamil asylum seekers, regardless of the legitimacy of their claims under the Refugee Convention. Leo also knew that at least 1500 Tamils had been returned by this government and the previous Labor government under a special arrangement with the Colombo government,” Aran Mylvaganam added.