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Asylum-seeker sets himself on fire in Australia

02 June 2014, 07:43

Sydney - A Sri Lankan Tamil asylum-seeker has died after setting himself on fire while awaiting a visa decision in Australia, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday.

Leorsin Seemanpillai, aged 29, who was living in Geelong, outside Melbourne, after being granted a temporary visa a year ago, suffered burns to 90% of his body after the incident on Saturday morning.

He died on Sunday in a Melbourne hospital.

"This man sadly died as a result of a very serious set of injuries that were self-inflicted," Morrison said.

"And I don't think we are in any position, and I frankly don't think anyone else is in any position, to draw any conclusions about what is a person's mind in that situation."

He added that authorities had been in touch with Seemanpillai's father in India, who requested a funeral for his son in Geelong.

Seemanpillai, who arrived by boat in Australia in January 2013, was receiving community mental health support and his refugee application was still being processed, Morrison added.

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

His 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 on 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 boatpeople 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.

- AFP

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