Tamil friends of 29-year-old Leo Seemanpillai say they “are all in the same situation” as their friend who doused his body with petrol and lit himself on fire.
The fear of deportation to Sri Lanka, where immediate and relentless torture awaits, fuels ongoing fears in the Tamil community, they report.
And Seemanpillai's self-immolation on Saturday night is an example of the rising Tamil tension, said Leo’s Geelong roommate, who spoke on the condition he would not be named.
“Leo was always talking about the fear of being deported back. That fear is in everyone,” he told Fairfax Media via a translator.
“I can relate to Leo in the sense that I am frustrated with my visa status - that is what drove him to do this,” said the roommate, who arrived in Australia in 2012 and like Mr Seemanpilli, is on a bridging visa.
“I can’t believe he has done this - even now, I can’t believe it.”
Tamil friend of Mr Seemanpilli, Nathan Bala, 30, sat at Leo’s bedside in hospital, when his friend self-immolated on Saturday night.
“He was fully burned, I could not recognise his face because it was all swollen ... I was really frustrated about it because the situation for him - it’s the same situation as everyone.”
The social worker from Sunshine said he sought asylum in Australia in 2007 after surviving ruthless torture meted out to him by the Sri Lankan government.
The 30-year-old, who is a permanent resident, said he fears being deported back, claiming a Tamil return to Sri Lanka is untenable.
“I was tortured by the Sri Lankan government in the past. I don’t want to go through that again.”
“They keep us in camps and torture us for years; we can’t afford the pain.
“Rather than be deported back to the Sri Lankan government … commit suicide.”
Around 100 people turned out to a vigil for the late Mr Seemanpilli at City Square, in Melbourne’s CBD.
The Tamil Refugee Council estimates there are around 2,000 Tamil refugees currently in Australia.
For help or information call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251 or Lifeline on 131 114, or visit beyondblue.org.au