Tamil refugee dies from petrol burns

A Tamil asylum seeker on a bridging visa has died with burns to 90 per cent of his body after apparently dousing himself in petrol and setting himself on fire in Geelong.

A spokesman for the Tamil Refugee Council said 29-year-old Leo Seemanpillai feared being sent back to Sri Lanka. Mr Seemanpillai arrived in Darwin by boat in January 2013 and was first granted a bridging visa last May.

He was taken to The Alfred hospital on Saturday before dying of his injuries overnight.

Tamil Refugee Council spokesman Aran Mylvaganam said he had known Mr Seemanpillai for 13 months, and was at his bedside on Saturday night. He said both his parents lived in a refugee camp in India, and were in shock over their son's death.

''He feared for his life if he was returned to Sri Lanka,'' Mr Mylvaganam said. ''His housemates have told me he repeatedly talked about being sent back, he was quite worried about it.''

Trevor Grant, a convener at the Tamil Refugee Council, said: ''He knew if he was sent back he'd face persecution from the military.''

Mr Grant said Mr Seemanpillai suffered depression after fleeing Sri Lanka about five years ago and living in a refugee camp in India.

''He's been in limbo ever since he got here in terms of his visa situation, and this coupled with his depression and fear of being sent back,'' Mr Grant said.

''As late as Friday … he'd actually been in quite good spirits, according to people I've been talking to today, but within 24 hours he'd lapsed back (into depression).''

Mr Grant said he believed Mr Seemanpillai had a soft drink bottle full of petrol which he poured over himself and set himself alight.

Mr Mylvaganam said that Mr Seemanpillai had previously expressed his wish to be an organ donor, and his liver, an eye, both kidneys and a lung were removed for donation.

''We were in communication with the family last night and they wanted his organs to be donated, and as a result five people have benefited,'' he said.

Ambulance Victoria spokesman John Mullen said paramedics were called to West Fyans Street in the Geelong suburb of Newtown at 11.38 on Saturday morning.

Mr Mullen said the man was doused in petrol, which had been ignited, causing ''full thickness'' burns to nearly 100 per cent of his body.

A Victoria Police spokesman said: ''At this stage we believe the injuries were self-inflicted.''

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the government was working with the hospital to make funeral arrangements. ''I and the department and the government extend our deepest sympathies to his family and to his friends who are here in Australia,'' he said.

The tragedy came as Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said an 18-year-old asylum-seeker had tried to kill himself on Christmas Island and several dozen detainees on the island remained on a hunger strike.

''This is the tragic, human consequence of the government's cruel refugee policy,'' Senator Hanson-Young said. ''A young man came to Australia, asking for our help, and we are failing him.''

For help or information call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251 or Lifeline on 131 114, or visit beyondblue.org.au

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Mr Seemanpillai's organs were removed prior to death.

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