Asylum seeker Khodayar Amini feared dead in Australia after ‘setting himself alight’ during video call

‘Khodayar stated that he wanted to end his life because he feared immigration and the police were pursuing him’

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
Monday 19 October 2015 12:56
Khodayar Amini told advocates: 'My crime was that I was a refugee'
Khodayar Amini told advocates: 'My crime was that I was a refugee'

An asylum seeker in Australia is thought to be dead after setting himself on fire during a video call to campaigners over fears he would be returned to a detention centre.

Khodayar Amini, a 30-year-old Hazara Afghan, had been living in Australia on a bridging visa after being released from a detention centre. On Sunday he had spoken with advocates Sarah Ross and Michelle Bui at the Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN) on the video call.

A statement issued by RRAN said: “Mr Khodayar stated that he wanted to end his life because he feared immigration and the police were pursuing him. He then doused his body in petrol and set himself alight.”

Ms Ross told The Independent she and Ms Bui saw Mr Khodayar pour petrol on himself during the call. She then turned to Ms Bui as they heard him set himself alight, at which point she “hit the phone out of Michelle’s hand”.

Ms Ross and Ms Bui immediately phoned emergency services. It is believed Khodyar had been in Dandenong, Victoria, at the time of the call, and police later told RRAN they had found a body matching Khodayar’s description. The body has not been formerly identified and RRAN is co-operating with police as part of the investigation.

During the video call, Mr Khodayar “had repeatedly said ‘immigration has killed my best friends’,” RRAN said in a statement, which it claimed referenced “several Hazara asylum seekers who have taken their lives earlier this year”.

The Christmas Island Detention Centre is reported to have shockingly poor healthcare

“He said he feared he would suffer the same fate should he be re-detained,” the statement continued.

Mr Khodayar had been issued a temporary visa “that has conditions on it that if asylum seekers have any interactions with police or transit authorities they can be put back in a detention centre,” Ms Ross said. “People constantly live in fear.”

The night before the video call, Mr Khodayar had sent a message to advocates, telling them: “My crime was that I was a refugee.

“They tortured me for 37 months and during all these times, they treated me in the most cruel and inhumane way, they violated my basic human right and took away my human dignity...They killed me as well as many of my friends such as: Nasim Najafi, Reza Rezayee and Ahmad Ali Jaffari".

Ms Ross told The Independent that many refugees use the term "torture" to describe the effect of being detained for long periods on their mental health.

Mr Najafi died at the Yongah Hill detention centre of a suspected heart attack amid claims he had been denied medical attention in August this year, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Mr Jaffari, a Hazari Afgan, died suddenly after experiencing chest pains at the Villawood detention centre in 2013, but supporters claim officers took too long to respond to him, ABC reported at the time.

The death of Mr Razayee was not reported, but Ms Ross claimed he was also living on a bridging visa and died after “jumping in front of a train” in June this year.

Last year a Tamil asylum seeker, Leo Seemananpillai, died after he set himself on fire. He had been living on a bridging visa in Geelong for a year.

RRAN said in a statement it believes Khodayar’s experience is “another testament to the impact of indefinite mandatory detention”.

“We believe Khodayar's experience and length of detention directly contributed to the deterioration of his mental health [and] that Khodayar's state of mind was symptomatic of the conditions surrounding his visa which kept him in a constant state of limbo and fear of re-detainment and deportation.”

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