Asylum seeker self-immolates rather than risk being returned to detention

October 23, 2015
At a Refugee Rights Action Network rally. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Khodayar Amini, an Afghan Hazara asylum seeker who feared immigration authorities were planning to put him back in detention, has died after set himself alight on October 18. Amini had been released from Yongah Hill detention centre in Western Australia on a bridging visa after more than two years in detention.

Shortly before killing himself, Amini spoke via video phone to Sarah Ross and Michelle Bui from the Refugee Rights Action Network (WA), telling them that he would rather kill himself rather than go back to detention.

The Refugee Rights Action Network (WA) released the following statement on October 18. It has been slightly abridged.


This morning, Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN) members received a video phone call from a 30-year-old Hazara asylum seeker named Khodayar. 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; activists suspect this took place in Dandenong, Victoria.

Moments before his suicide attempt, Khodayar stated “you are telling all media, Red Cross killing me, Immigration killing me ... I want to kill my life ... I don't have any option ... they don't give me chance ... I can't stay in detention centre ...”

Khodayar repeatedly said “immigration has killed my best friends,” a reference to several Hazara asylum seekers who have taken their lives earlier this year. He said he feared he would suffer the same fate should he be re-detained.

There have been two confirmed suicides in Perth alone and one suspicious death — a suspected suicide — of Nasim Najafi who died in Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre in July. All of these deaths were Hazara asylum seekers, either detained or on bridging visas.

RRAN believes this is yet 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. RRAN further believes that Khodayar's state of mind was symptomatic of the conditions surrounding his visa that kept him in a constant state of limbo and fear of re-detainment and deportation.

The night before his suicide attempt, Khodayar stated in a message to advocates, “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”.

Khodayar ended this note with a plea: “I ask you to stand up for the rights of refugees and stop people being killed just because they have become refugees. Humanity is not a slogan; every human has the right to live.”

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