Family may struggle to get visas for son's funeral
The Tamil family of Leo Seemanpillai, who self-immolated last weekend in Geelong, may face "real difficulties" in getting visas to come for his funeral, says the Immigration Minister.PT1M37S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-39ppy 620 349 June 7, 2014
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has said the family of a refugee, who died after setting himself alight, would face "very real difficulties" in obtaining visitor visas to attend his funeral if held in Australia.
Mr Morrison said he could not instruct his department to issue visitor visas for the family and had instead offered to repatriate the man's remains.
Leo Seemanpillai, 29, doused himself in petrol and set himself alight in Geelong last Saturday night. He died the next day. Mr Seemanpillai feared being deported back to Sri Lanka where he expected he would suffer relentless torture, friends say.
Friends pay their last respects to Leo. Photo: Justin McManus
Mr Morrison said it was within his ministerial powers to repatriate the remains to the family who live in a refugee camp in India, but that he was unable to instruct his department to issue visitor visas to the family.
"It's for the department to assess a valid application that requires valid travel documents on the part of the parents, and this presents very real difficulties, which is why the government, through myself as minister, made the quite unusual offer to repatriate the remains in these very tragic circumstances," Mr Morrison told ABC Radio.
"Now the family have rejected that offer, I understand, ... and that's a matter for them. I can only make the offer in these circumstances. I can't insist that people take it up," he said.
The family have said they hold safety concerns about attending a funeral for Mr Seemanpillai.
Mr Morrison said his department and a diplomatic representative had contacted Mr Seemanpillai's father to explain the process and that they would need to "satisfy all the normal visitor visa rules," including travel documents.
"But the visa process here is very clear and the department will have to assess that application. It is not available to the minister to instruct the department in issuing a visitor visa in circumstances like this and they (the department) will have to apply the law as it stands," he said.
For help or information call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251 or Lifeline on 131 114, or visit beyondblue.org.au
The sad and lonely world of Leo Seemanpillai tomorrow in the Sunday Age.