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Tamil refugee stuck in 'hellish' conditions on Manus Island appeals to settle in UK

Tamil refugee and torture survivor from Sri Lanka, Thiraviyarajah Subramaniyam, 37, has appealed to be allowed to join his sister in the UK, having been incarcerated in “hellish” conditions by the Australian authorities since 2013.

Thiraviyarajah is suffering from serious mental health problems due to the torture he experienced in Sri Lanka followed by years spent in detention on Manus Island.

Amnesty International has previously reported on the “hellish” conditions of Manus Island, including the impact of psychological trauma and violent threats. Read the full report here.

Thiraviyarajah has appealed against the Home Office’s refusal to allow him to resettle in the UK. The Home Office rejected his case in June 2018, saying that he failed to provide a valid passport. Thiraviyarajah does not have a valid passport from Sri Lanka as he is a refugee but has a UNHCR issued travel document, which recognises him as a refugee.

Susila Subramaniyam, Thiraviyarajah’s sister, said her brother is suffering from “poor and deteriorating” mental health.

In a statement to the court, she said: “My brother is a refugee and is currently caught in a state of limbo in Papua New Guinea where he is being held until he is granted entry to another country. I’m very scared for my brother’s future if he’s not able to come and stay with us. He’s not able to look after himself properly.”

Susila also said that she and her family are able and willing to support her brother if he is allowed to resettle in the UK.

Naga Kandiah, his solicitor, said, “Despite having applied within Home Office guidelines his case was refused. His deteriorating mental health problems are a result of the lethal combination of being a torture survivor and the appalling conditions he has been held in on Manus Island.”

There has been a dramatic rise in suicide and self harm attempts since the re-election of the Australian coalition government last month. 

Rebecca Lim, an Australian based community activist, who has visited Thiraviyarajah and is supporting him, expressed her concern for his deteriorating health.

“Healthcare conditions on Manus are just horrendous.  They can treat malaria and typhoid but not torture and trauma. There have been 40 cases of self-harm and attempted suicide since the elections. There’s no plan B if Thiraviyarajah isn’t able to get to the UK.”

“He’s a single man. He hopes to marry and have a family. He says he would like to ger a job as a truck driver. He wants a future,” she added.

Judgement has been reserved following Tuesday's hearing.

Read more here