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S. Lankan refugee poisons himself in Australia.

S. Lankan: A Sri Lankan man died in Australian immigration detention, officials said Tuesday, with refugee advocates claiming he killed himself with poison after being refused permission to attend a Hindu festival.

The man died shortly after midnight at Sydney Immigration Residential Housing -- a family compound adjacent to the Villawood detention centre in western Sydney -- after being found in a distressed state, officials said.

His death comes as leaders from 54 Commonwealth countries, including Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, arrive in Australia for a summit set to discuss the plight of asylum-seekers and other human rights issues.

Refugee advocates said the man, an ethnic Tamil aged in his mid-20s, had been granted asylum in Australia several months ago but was awaiting a background security check before he could be freed.

He had been in detention for over two years and had repeatedly requested permission to live in the community while his application was processed, according to Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition.

Rintoul said the man had taken poison after receiving a letter refusing him permission to be temporarily released to celebrate Diwali, the biggest festival in the Hindu calendar which is marked across South Asia.

"Tragically, he had witnessed three other successful suicides in Villawood," Rintoul said.

"How absolutely tragic, but how telling, that an accepted refugee could feel despair enough to take their own life in a detention centre."

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen confirmed the man had been accepted as a refugee but authorities were reviewing whether he was a "risk to national security" and he was not considered a candidate for community release in the meantime.

"This was a long, involved, complex and protracted case," he told reporters.

Bowen said the man s request to join a friend for Diwali celebrations had been refused and he had received counselling whilst in detention for trauma and torture.

"There is always a risk of self harm for people in difficult circumstances, whether they be in detention or not," he said.

"So obviously that will always be a concern in relation to people who are having their claims for asylum processed."

Bowen could not comment on the claims of poisoning, saying the cause of death was a matter for police and "no doubt" a coronial inquest.

It is the seventh death in immigration detention in the past year. Australia s top medical body warned last month that even children were attempting to take their own lives and self-harming in the riot-plagued centres.

The government has ordered an investigation into reports that incidents of self-harm have surged 12-fold in the past year as waiting times ballooned due to a surge in boatloads of asylum-seekers arriving in Australia.

A government inquiry is examining Australia s mandatory detention of refugees, which has been criticised by human rights groups including the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.

Canberra announced that it would release more people into the community this month after failing to secure political support for its refugee swap deal with Malaysia, which would also have seen boatpeople processed in Papua New Guinea.

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Oct 26, 2011
Words:542
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