The Australian Government has drawn widespread condemnation following the death of an Afghan asylum seeker in Victoria at the weekend.
30 year old Afghan refugee Khodayar Amini is believed to have died after he set himself alight in an act of protest against Australian immigration policies.
In a frantic call made moments before his death, Mr Amini told refugee aid workers he believed he would be deported back to Afghanistan in the coming days, following contact with immigration officials.
CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia Paul Power said Mr Amini’s death is indicative of the psychological pressure placed on asylum seekers who live in constant fear of deportation.
“We’ve had quite a number of people who’ve been forced back into circumstances where they are considerably at risk,” Mr Power said.
“And of course historically there have been people who have died after being returned to Afghanistan by Australia.”
Mr Power said Afghans awaiting determination of their asylum seeker status have lost faith in the ability of the Australian immigration system to help them escape persecution.
“The situation has been deteriorating in Afghanistan, and has been for some time. Yet the recent changes to the migration act are really designed to find reasons not to give Afghans refugee protection,” Mr Power said.
“There is a considerable fear amongst Afghans in Australia who are seeking asylum that they will not get the fair hearing which they need.”
Greens senator Sarah Young-Hanson released a statement calling for a full investigation into the incident, casting blame on the government for the circumstances which led to Amini’s death.
“What is clear is that the government’s cruel treatment of refugees is having disastrous effects for people both in detention and in the community,” Senator Young-Hanson said.
“As a nation, we need to think long and hard about how we treat people who have come to Australia seeking safety and care.”
If you or someone you know are experiencing thoughts of self-harm, please call Lifeline on 13 11 44.