Posts Tagged ‘Sri Lanka’

The as-yet un-named asylum seeker who attempted suicide yesterday.

The as-yet un-named asylum seeker who attempted suicide yesterday.

 

In just the latest horrific outcome of Australia’s current treatment of asylum seekers, a Tamil refugee set himself on fire in Sydney last night after his appeal for continuation of his protection visa and resulting refugee status was rejected.

The man, believed to be in his late 20s, was taken to Concord Hospital after dousing himself in petrol outside his workplace in Balmain and setting himself alight. He has burns to about 98 per cent of his body. He is in an induced coma, having already undergone at least two skin-graft operations. There is a slim hope he may recover, although at that level of burns it frankly seems unlikely.

A friend, Balasingham Prabhakaran, said today the man, who is from the Batticaloa region in eastern Sri Lanka, had received a letter from the Immigration department telling him his application for a protection visa in Australia had been rejected and he must to return to Sri Lanka. He has been living in the community on a bridging visa for at least 18 months after fleeing Sri Lanka because of threats from authorities.

“He has told me he has a genuine fear about being sent back to Sri Lanka,” said Prabhakaran, who runs a 24-hour Tamil radio station in Sydney, Inbathamil Oli.

self immolation

Not something we think you’d do just because you want a job in Australia.

“He was very disillusioned after getting the letter on Tuesday.

He rang many of his friends to say ‘Hi’, and then after he finished his work as an office cleaner about 8.30 p.m., he went outside, and set himself alight.”

Apparently the refugee swallowed the petrol before pouring it on himself.

A number of workers from a nearby shipyard came to his aid, pouring water on him and trying to put out the flames.

“He had the can of petrol in his bag. It was obviously planned. They also found the rejection letter from Immigration and a two-page suicide note in his bag.”

Tamil Refugee Council spokesman, Aran Mylvaganam, said this sad case was further proof that the Australian government’s refugee policy was creating desperation among refugee and asylum-seeker communities. “I suppose the Minister for Immigration will just shrug this off as more collateral damage in the war on asylum-seekers,” he said.

Tamil Refugee Council spokesman Trevor Grant says the man is in a critical condition in Sydney’s Concord Hospital, with burns to most of his body.

“There is some hope that he may survive,” he said.

Paramedics treat asylum seeker for burns

Ambulance workers seek to save the young man’s life.

“They’re trying desperately to get his 65-year-old mother to Australia to be at his bedside, along with his brother.

“But he’s already had a number of surgeries, skin grafts etc., and he’s apparently going to have more today.”

The Federal Government is in contact with the Sri Lankan High Commission over the incident, said a spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, adding that service providers did not hold or report any concerns about the man’s mental health.

The spokeswoman said in a statement:

“The government’s focus is to ensure for the proper care and support of this young man, in partnership with the Sri Lankan High Commission.

“The Minister is advised the young man had arrived in Australia in June 2012 and was released into the community on a bridging visa in October.

“In July 2013 he was found not to be owed protection and this decision was affirmed on appeal by the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) earlier this month.

“The young man was receiving support in the community from our service providers, while residing in the community on his bridging visa, as well as receiving migration advice under the IAAAS scheme in relation to his case.

“The Minister is advised that following receiving the news of the RRT decision, service providers did not hold or report any concerns about his state of mental health.”

But Mr Grant says the young man is one of many asylum seekers terrified of being sent home. “This is really an inevitable outcome of a policy that is purposely designed to create suffering in order to deter people,” he said. “This man has been one of some 20,000 in the community. They’re undergoing psychological torture not knowing what’s happening to them, living in fear every day of being returned to danger.”

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan authorities – as they would – sought to argue that there was no reason for Tamil refugees to fear returning to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s Consul General for NSW and Queensland, Bandula Jayasekera says:

“It’s safe for anybody and everybody is looked after well,” he said. “It is also sad what these so called refugee advocates and so called lawyers are saying … and I see that as a bit of a business. “They have to look at the situation in Sri Lanka before going and commenting without any facts.”

Really, Sir? You might care to comment on recent reports suggesting the opposite. Perhaps Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison might care to comment as well? And it would be helpful if matters such as this could be reported more widely inside Australia and journalists press for more information from Government instead of being “fobbed off”.

Could all the politicians and diplomats concerned explain specifically, for example, why the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), in its annual human rights round up report and individual country of concern reports published today, expressed serious concern regarding the human rights situation in Sri Lanka?

Expanding on the reason behind the FCO involvement in securing a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution calling for an international investigation into war crimes, the report said:

“The UK sees accountability for alleged war crimes, respect for human rights, and a political settlement as essential elements of post-conflict reconciliation.”

It has to be said that the conflict with the Tamils was hideous, with war crimes undoubtedly committed by both sides.

But the peace leaves a lot to be desired.

Far from improving, Sri Lanka’s human rights situation may actually be getting worse. The report notes a ‘negative trend’ in progress on human rights issues over the last year and expands on a wide range of  issues including freedom of expression and assembly, human rights defenders, access to justice and the rule of law, the death penalty, torture, conflict and protection of civilians, freedom of religion belief, women’s rights, minority rights, children’s rights and LGBT rights. Pro-Tamil groups (easily found on the Internet by anyone making a modicum of effort) regularly report what they consider human rights abuses.

You can see the British Government’s Sri Lanka report here and an updated addendum here.

For further information about yesterday’s suicide attempt, you can contact the Tamil Refugee Council on 0400 597 351.

Saudi Arabia behads about 80 people a year

Saudi Arabia beheads about 80 people a year

A Sri Lankan woman who was employed as a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia was beheaded by the Saudi authorities on Wednesday after she was accused of murdering an infant in her charge and then sentenced to death in a case that the Sri Lankan government and human rights groups said was deeply flawed.

The Saudi Interior Ministry announced in a brief statement released by the official Saudi news agency that the woman, Rizana Nafeek, had been executed. It said she strangled the infant because of differences between her and the baby’s mother. She was detained and interrogated and was sentenced after trial, the Saudi ministry reported. She had been on the job for only six weeks before the accusation was made against her in 2005.

Waiting patiently, but all hope is now ended.

Waiting patiently, but all hope is now ended. Rizana’s parents.

Her mother, Rafeena, told the BBC at the family’s tiny village home, where they keep one cow, that Rizana Nafeek went to Saudi Arabia to earn money to educate her three younger siblings.

In 2005, war was returning to this part of Sri Lanka between the military and Tamil Tiger rebels. Rizana’s father, Sulthan, could no longer go to the jungle to collect wood, which had been his job.

n Saudi Arabia, their daughter got domestic employment but was also given childcare duties, something her parents say she was not expecting.

Weeks after her arrival, tragedy struck. The baby in her care, Naif al-Quthaibi, died. A Saudi court convicted her of murder and sentenced her to death. She says that Naif choked during a feeding session and she was unable to save him.

The evidence that the accused was a minor when the alleged crime was committed is compelling.

The BBC visited her old school, the Imam Shafi Vidyalaya, and saw a register which says she was born in 1988. That matches her birth certificate.

Rizana Nafeek's name can clearly be seen on the Imam Shafi Vidyalaya school register.

Rizana Nafeek’s name can clearly be seen on the Imam Shafi Vidyalaya school register.

Her passport says she was born in 1982, but her family and neighbours say this was falsified by an unscrupulous Sri Lankan job agent.

If the 1988 date is correct, she was definitely only 17 and therefore a juvenile when the alleged crime took place.

Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, had made several appeals to the Saudi government to halt the execution. Sri Lanka also sent ministers to the kingdom on similar appeals and arranged for the woman’s parents to visit their daughter in prison in 2008 and 2011, the Sri Lanka statement said.

“President Rajapaksa and the Government of Sri Lanka deplore the execution of Miss Rizana Nafeek despite all efforts at the highest level of the government and the outcry of the people locally and internationally over the death sentence of a juvenile housemaid,” it said.

Ms. Nafeek’s case was shrouded in controversy all along. Human Rights Watch, which along with other rights organizations had urged the Saudi government to halt the execution, said that she should have been treated as a minor in Saudi Arabia’s judicial system, and it also questioned whether she had been given a fair trial:

Though she was arrested in 2005, she did not have access to legal counsel until after a court in Dawadmi sentenced her to death in 2007. Nafeek has also retracted a confession that she said was made under duress, and says that the baby died in a choking accident while drinking from a bottle.

Human Rights Watch said that Ms. Nafeek’s birth certificate showed that she was 17 at the time of her arrest, but that a recruitment agency in Sri Lanka had altered the birth date on her passport to present her as 23 so she could migrate for work. Her birth certificate says she was born in 1988, said Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in an interview, adding that she has a scanned image of the document.

The High Court in Colombo, Sri Lanka, sentenced two recruitment agents to two years in prison for falsifying her travel documents, she said.

In a statement that was released this week and updated on Wednesday when the sentence was carried out, Human Rights Watch said that international law prohibits the death penalty for crimes committed before the age of 18.

“Saudi Arabia is one of just three countries that executes people for crimes they committed as children,” Ms. Varia said. The others are Iran and Yemen, she said.

Amnesty International said in a statement that as a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Saudi Arabia is prohibited from imposing the death penalty on people under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offense, and that if there was doubt, the courts were required to treat the suspect as a juvenile until the prosecution can confirm the age.

After the sentence was handed down in 2007, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had called on the Saudi authorities for clemency, but the sentence was appealed and then later ratified by the country’s Supreme Court. King Abdullah signed off on it this week, Amnesty International said.

According to information gathered by Amnesty International, Ms. Nafeek said she was not allowed to present her birth certificate or other evidence of her age to the Court of First Instance in 2007. Amnesty International said it also appeared that the man who translated her statement to the court might not have been able adequately to go between Tamil and Arabic.

She also had no access to lawyers either during her pretrial interrogation or at her trial in 2007. Amnesty International said that although she initially confessed to the baby’s murder during her interrogation, “she later retracted and denied it was true, saying she had been forced to make the ‘confession’ under duress following a physical assault.”

Sri Lankan protests were on-going, but ultimately fruitless. The Saudi government and King appear to have simply disregarded them despite the serious doubts in  the case.

Sri Lankan protests were on-going, but ultimately fruitless. The Saudi government and King appear to have simply disregarded them despite the serious doubts in the case.

Ms. Varia said she had spoken on Wednesday to the Sri Lankan ambassador in Riyadh, who told her that Ms. Nafeek was unaware she was to be executed. Ms. Nafeek, a Muslim, is from an impoverished family. Her father is a woodcutter. “In cases where girls are migrating so young it shows how desperate families are for income,” she said.

The news of the execution came on the same day that the United Nations’ International Labor Organization issued a report saying that of the 52 million domestic workers worldwide, only 10 percent are covered by labor laws to the same extent as other workers, and more than one-quarter are completely excluded from national labor legislation. It called on countries to extend protections to such workers.

Saudi Arabia in particular was not keeping up with the international trend to improve protections for domestic workers, Ms. Varia said.

Wellthisiswhatithink has had cause to draw attention to the inadequacies and brutalities of the Saudi legal system before including the case of a woman executed for “witchcraft”. Other commentators have also noticed what’s going on, including threatening the death sentence to bloggers. And this story will again fuel the racist and ignorant perception that this is a country unworthy of acceptance into the modern world, but also – more accurately – one where justice is medieval, capricious, and biased against women and the poor.

The West will soon free itself of reliance on the oil under Saudi Arabia which has made its occupants so accidentally, ludicrously and obscenely rich. When that day comes, and they find world opinion firmly against them, they may regret the death of young girls like Rizana, made to kneel in the sand in terror while their head is brutally struck from their shoulders.

May she rest in peace.