Myanmar refugee sets himself alight in Australia

The man had "begged to be at least told when he would come out of detention".

Updated: Jan 31, 2011, 12:32 PM IST

Sydney: A Myanmar refugee being held in Australian immigration detention was rushed to hospital in the early hours of Monday after trying to set himself on fire, advocates said.

The immigration department confirmed only that a detainee was taken to hospital after a "small fire" at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin about 2:30 am (1700 GMT Sunday).

"We are not speculating on the cause of the fire but the detainee had no injuries," a spokeswoman said.

"(They have) since been discharged and returned to the centre," she said, adding that federal police were investigating the incident.

Advocates from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said the inmate was from Myanmar and had "set himself on fire last night in desperation" after eight months of uncertainty about his application.

The ASRC said the man had been granted refugee status but his visa was being held up by security checks.

"He was desperate to get out of detention because (he was) fearing for the lives of his children back home and (was) powerless to help them in detention," the ASRC said on its Twitter feed.

"He was so fearful for his kids he previously asked to be sent home despite his own life being in danger so as to save his kids."

The man had "begged to be released or returned or at least told when he would come out of detention" before setting himself alight, the ASRC said.

Public broadcaster ABC, citing sources inside the centre, also said the man was from Myanmar and had attempted to ignite himself.

Immigration officials would not comment on the detainee`s gender, nationality or the status of their application.

Tensions are high in Australia`s immigration centres after a record 6,500 refugees arrived by leaky fishing boat from Indonesia last year, stretching facilities to capacity. Most are from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Iraq.

Hunger strikes and protests have flared recently after a refugee boat smashed into rocks at remote Christmas Island, killing about 50 people, and Canberra announced a push to forcibly deport failed Afghan asylum claimants.

Bureau Report