Monday, June 16, 2008


Refused asylum seeker commits suicides

June 16, 2008 - 8:34AM, smh

An asylum seeker who was denied an Australian protection visa and deported back to China has committed suicide out of despair, a refugee advocate says.

The man, referred to only as Mr Zhang, had claimed he would be persecuted because of his involvement with pro-democracy groups if he was sent back to China.

Refugee advocate Frances Milne said she worked on the case and kept in touch with Mr Zhang after he had been sent back to China in April last year.

"To find that he has now committed suicide to avoid, I guess, further persecution and torture is very, very disappointing and upsetting," she told ABC Radio.

Numerous letters to former coalition immigration minister Kevin Andrews and his Labor successor Chris Evans had been ignored, Ms Milne said.

"If there is any decency in our government then having a policy of giving protection to people that we have wrongly determined not to be refugees is absolutely crucial. They must do it."

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties said Mr Zhang's deportation had been in breach of Australia's obligations under the convention against torture.

"He immediately faced torture on his return to China and evidence of that was presented to the Australian government," secretary Stephen Blanks told ABC Radio.

"We have been pleading with the Australian government to bring him back and there has just been inaction."

A spokesman for the immigration department said Mr Zhang's suicide was regretted but declined to comment on details of his case.

Speaking last year, Mr Zhang said he was interrogated for more than 15 days as soon as he arrived back in China.

"Policemen pushed me down on the ground. One ... stepped on me ... it was broken, the left hand, the middle finger," he told ABC Radio through an interpreter.

While in Australia, Mr Zhang supported protests by the Falun Gong spiritual group, which is banned in China, and was involved in a hunger strike at the Villawood detention centre.

© 2008 AAP