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2 October 2017

The death of a Tamil asylum seeker on Manus Island on Monday is further evidence that the Australian government’s refugee policy is killing people, a spokesman for the Tamil Refugee Council said today.

“Rajeev Rajendran was just 32 and had everything to live for. But the suffering he has endured at the hands of the Australian government made him feel that he had nothing to live for,” Kumar Narayanaswami said.

Rajeev is the sixth Manus Island-detained refugee to have died in the last four years. His death follows those of 24-year-old Iranians Reza Barati and Hamid Kehazaei in 2014; 34-year-old Pakistani Kamil Hussain and 27-year-old Sudanese Faysal Ishak Ahmed in 2016; and 31-year-old Iranian Hamed Shamshiripour in August.

Rajendran, a Hindu from the Jaffna region in Tamil Eelam, is understood to have fled Sri Lanka after being threatened by the military. He landed on Christmas Island in 2013 before being taken to Manus Island by Australian authorities.

On Friday, he cut his own throat. His friends say local authorities denied him proper medical treatment.

“Like many other Tamils, Rajeev had been waiting for more than four years for a decision on his application for protection,” Narayanaswami said. “He was aware of Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s statements that the authorities intend to deport Tamil asylum seekers regardless of the legitimacy of their claims under the Refugee Convention.”

Rajeev has been suffering from depression for more than a year. Every morning he woke wondering whether the government would force him back to the persecution from which he had fled. His psychological state gradually deteriorated; now he has been pushed over the edge. The Tamil Refugee Council fears that more deaths will result from the Australian government’s callousness.

“Many Tamil asylum seekers have been telling me for a long time that they would prefer to die in detention than be sent back to a Sri Lankan torture chamber,” Narayanaswami said. “I always hoped that these were just pleas for help that would not be acted on. But Rajeev’s death shows how desperate the detainees are
becoming. They need to be brought to the Australian mainland and granted asylum immediately.”

For further information contact the Tamil Refugee Council on 0410 197 814

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