17 Jun 2011

Sri Lankan who attemped suicide wins reprieve

Foreign Affairs Correspondent

Nagendrarajah Suthakaran won a reprieve against his deportation after he tried to kill himself. He speaks exclusively to Jonathan Miller about his fears of being sent back to Sri Lanka.

Home Office letter (from Jonathan Miller)

Nagendrarajah Suthakaran tried to hang himself early on Thursday morning at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre near Heathrow airport, in a desperate bid to avoid being deported back to Sri Lanka.

He was revived at Hillingdon Hospital and just hours later transferred to the waiting chartered aircraft to be flown back to Colombo. With just two minutes before the deadline at the Royal Courts of Justice, his lawyer obtained an injunction, preventing his removal.

He was already in his seat on the aircraft, seatbelt on. Mr Suthakaran, who is 31 years old and has a young child and a wife who is a German citizen, was removed from the plane and taken back to Harmondsworth. Tonight, Channel 4 News conducted an exclusive interview with him by telephone.

“If I had gone back,” he said, “there was no guarantee for my life and I know they would torture me and kill me. I received a death threat on my phone [on Wednesday] and that is what tipped me over the edge. What was I supposed to do?

“I tried to die. That was better for me. But then I found that the were reviving me so that I could be killed by torture in Sri Lanka. ” Nagendrarajah Suthakaran

Mr Suthakaran had told me, when I interviewed him inside Harmondsworth detention centre on Tuesday, told me that in March this year he had been on hunger strike for 25 days before attempting suicide in order to avoid being placed on an earlier removal flight.

He claims that when his parents died, when he was a child, he was brought up by members of the Tamil Tiger guerrilla group and that asylum application papers in which he had stated this had been passed to the Sri Lankan authorities in Britain by the UK Border Agency. The UKBA denies this.

Tonight he gave his account of what happened yesterday.

“After I attempted to commit suicide, I fainted. I was not aware of my whereabouts. I was not aware that I was put in an ambulance but at about 12 noon, I became aware that I was in hospital. I found that they were rushing to transport me back [to Harmondsworth] to ensure I was on the flight. I was taken back again in a wheel chair.

“After all of this, and my suicide attempt, I cried and I pleaded with them not to send me back. But between 10 and 13 people forcibly removed me. Everyone was wearing either reflective jackets or white uniforms. One of the people was saying to the rest of them to be careful with my neck because of my suicide attempt.

“But they were putting force on me, holding my head down. I was handcuffed and I tried to resist but there were too many of them. Both my wrists were bleeding.”

I don’t feel any animosity towards anyone but I can’t understand why the British authorities saved my life only to send me back to where I will be killed.”

Mr Suthakaran’s lawyer is applying to have his client released on bail, with his brother, who lives in the UK, providing surety.

Mr Suthakaran originally claimed asylum in January 2005 and exhausted his appeals in August 2007. He absconded and a year later was arrested and charged with fraud, for forging a work permit document while attempting to open a bank account. He was convicted and served six months in prison.

Subsequent applications for asylum, in light of his marriage to a European citizen, failed. Mr Suthakaran was married in a Hindu temple in Ealing, London, in November 2006.