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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Tamil Refugees & Asylum Seekers > Tamil Asylum Seeker sets himself on fire in Sweden - March 1994  

Tamil Asylum Seeker sets himself on fire in Sweden:
International Federation of Tamils Appeal - March 1994


A 36 year old Tamil asylum seeker living in Ensobing in Sweden set himself on fire on 2 March and suffered serious burn injuries.

The Tamil who had come from the North of the island of Sri Lanka had been told by the Swedish Immigration Ministry that his permission to stay in Sweden would end on 14 March and that he would thereafter be kept in custody pending deportation back to Sri Lanka. The Tamil asylum seeker had thereupon set himself on fire and attempted to commit suicide at about 10.40 a.m. He was seen in flames in the street in Ensobing and was rescued by a Swede and admitted to the teaching Hospital at Uppasala. 63% of his body was burnt and he remained unconscious on the following two days and his condition continues to be serious.

The action of the Tamil asylum seeker in Sweden in preferring death, even by fire, to a forced deportation to Sri Lanka shows in stark terms the oppressive ground reality in Colombo and elsewhere.

The Sri Lanka government seeks to pretend in international fora that conditions in the island resembled that presented in its tourist brochures. The truth is that indiscriminate aerial bombardment of the North has continued even as the UN Commission on Human Rights sits in Geneva and deliberates on whether the Sri Lanka government has honoured the commitments it gave in March 1993 to observe the norms of humanitarian law and uphold human rights standards. Hundreds of Tamils in East continue to be arbitrarily arrested in the East in those areas within the control of the Sri Lanka armed forces. Many of those arrested have subsequently ‘disappeared’. In Colombo, during the past year, more than 15 thousand Tamils have been arrested at random and many have been tortured.

Amnesty reported in February 1994: "During this period (since the beginning of 1993) thousands of Tamil people.. were arbitrarily arrested and detained, solely on account of their ethnicity, especially in Colombo. Some were arrested by plainclothed officers in the middle of the night and driven off, blindfolded, in unmarked vehicles.... Torture and ill treatment in custody continued .. (For instance) Sinnathamby Meganathan.. was abducted on 10 November 1993 from a bus in central Colombo by a group of plainclothed men.. he was traced a week later and released without charge. He had been assaulted in custody and had several injuries all over his body. He had also burn marks on his feet. He claimed he was given electric shocks to his thumbs.... (In another case) Arulappu Jude Arulrajah was arrested on 2 October 1993... (Amnesty) found that he had been tortured.. he was regularly beaten and on one occasion he was hung from a wooden pole suspended between two tables and his genitals cut, possibly with a hacksaw.... Impunity remained a major obstacle to the long term improvement of human rights.. Little progress was made in the prosecution of security forces personnel allegedly responsible for committing human rights violations during previous years. Many of the specific undertakings for the protection of human rights which the government made to the international community have yet to be implemented."

In these circumstances, the International Federation of Tamils expresses its dismay at the decision taken by some governments in the West to repatriate Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka. We are gravely concerned that the lives of Tamil asylum seekers returned to Sri Lanka would be put at great risk and we urge those governments who have decided to repatriate, even small numbers of Tamil asylum seekers, to reconsider their decision and honour their obligations under the UN Convention of Refugees, both in letter and in spirit.

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