The Tamil Refugee Council has called for the immediate release of a Tamil refugee diagnosed with Leukaemia after spending more than nine years in detention.

Sivaguru Navanitharasa, known to his friends as Rajan, arrived in Australia in 2009 after fleeing Sri Lanka in the wake of that country’s genocidal offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which claimed the lives of tens of thousands of civilians.

Rajan, who is 45 years old, has now spent almost one-fifth of his life in Australian detention centres, being held first on Christmas Island and then in Villawood. Since March 2016 he has been held in Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation in Broadmeadows.

Rajan was granted refugee status in 2010, but shortly after received a secret negative assessment from ASIO. That assessment was rescinded in 2016 in recognition of Rajan being a threat to no-one. But by that time, Australian law had changed and he had to submit a new protection application. 

In early 2017, a report of the Commonwealth and Immigration Ombudsman noted “with concern” Rajan’s case and “strongly recommended” that “the department expedite the referral of [his] case to the minister for consideration of a bridging visa. The Ombudsman further recommends that the department urgently prioritise the assessment of [his] TPV application.”

The Ombudsman also noted Rajan’s deteriorating health:

“International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) advised that [he] has continued to present with depression, anxiety, adjustment disorder and detention fatigue. In August 2016 [his] counsellor noted that his mental health was deteriorating and that he was feeling generally hopeless. He is prescribed with anti-depressant medication and receives regular torture and trauma counselling as well as support from the mental health team.” 

The department, however, rejected Rajan’s claim. He took his case to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal nine months ago, but is still waiting for a determination.

This week he was diagnosed with Leukaemia, but his next hospital appointment is not until June. Rajan’s friends and family are concerned that his continued detention will cause his health to deteriorate further.