Oct 03, 2017

Australia demands thousands from family to transfer body of dead Tamil refugee

Australian authorities have requested the sum of nine thousand dollars to return the body of a Tamil refugee who was found dead in one of its controversial offshore detention centers.

The body of Rajeev Rajendran was discovered on the grounds of the Lorengau hospital in Papua New Guinea where he had been sent after a previous suicide attempt.

RjeeveThe Australian High Commission in Colombo has requested the 32-year-old man’s family in Sri Lanka for USD 9000 to facilitate the transfer of his body back to Sri Lanka.

Rajendran, hailing from the Skandapuram, Kilinochchi had fled Sri Lanka after being threatened by the military. He landed on Christmas Island in 2013 before being taken to Manus for detention.

"The department is aware of the death at Lorengau Hospital," a spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said in a brief statement.

Rajeev’s family has been told by the Australian High Commission in Colombo that they would have to pay 900,000 Sri Lankan Rupees to have Rajeev’s body transported home.

Tamil Refugee Council (TRC) based in Australia slammed the government for trying to extract money from his family, who are unable to afford such a large sum.

“We have lost a son, a brother, a cousin and a wonderful friend”, Rajeev’s cousin Mathy has told TRC.

“We don’t know how we will find this amount of money. Why would they do this to us? They have taken our dear Rajeev from us – is this not enough? But now they demand a fortune as well.”

'Criminal negligence'

“Like many other Tamils, Rajeev had been waiting for more than four years for a decision on his application for protection,” said TRC spokesman Kumar Narayanaswami. “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.”

Fellow refugees in the East Lorengau detention centre calling for an investigation into the death of Rajeev Rajendran have announced a peaceful vigil.

“This man should not have died,” Manus island detainee, Kurdish journalist and writer Behrouz Boochani said.  “He should have been in a safe place with access to appropriate medical care.”

IANIan Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition said authorities on Manus Island were neglecting  refugees who were physically or mentally unwell after four years in detention.

“This death is criminal neglect. The evacuation of Manus and Nauru is now a more urgent priority.”

Six deaths

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Daniel Webb said the latest death was yet further demonstration that Nauru and Manus Island were unsuitable for resettlement.

TRC is calling for the Australian government to pay for all arrangements related to Rajeev’s funeral and be held accountable for the death of the Tamil refugee under its protection.

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.

(by Indika Gamage – jdslanka.org)