Myanmar man accused of self-immolation in Australian bank

A fire damaged ATM (automated teller machine) is seen at the Commonwealth Bank Springvale in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, on Friday, after more than two dozen people were injured in a fire. (EPA)
Updated 19 November 2016

Myanmar man accused of self-immolation in Australian bank

CANBERRA, Australia: A 21-year-old man accused of injuring 26 bystanders when he set himself on fire with gasoline in a bank branch in Australia’s second-largest city was identified on Saturday as a Myanmar asylum seeker who had been waiting three years to be accepted as a refugee.
The suspect, known by his friends as Noor, and five bystanders were taken to hospital with serious burns following the fire at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia branch in the Melbourne suburb of Springvale Friday morning, officials said.
Another 21 people ranging from children to elderly in their 80s were taken to hospitals with breathing problems.
Noor, who remained under police guard on Saturday, came to Australia by boat as a lone teen in 2013 and had been waiting to be granted a refugee visa ever since, said Pamela Curr, who recently retired from the non-government Asylum Seeker Resource Center outside Melbourne.
Curr did not know why Noor had allegedly decided to set himself alight. But she said the Immigration Department was threatening to make thousands of asylum seekers financially desperate by cutting their benefits if their refugee claims were rejected.
“The department is going to starve thousands of people out of the country, or so they think,” Curr said.
A member of Myanmar’s minority-Muslim Rohingya community in Melbourne, Habib Habib, said Noor speaks Rohingya, although he might not himself identify as Rohingya.
Noor had been struggling financially to help support his family in Myanmar with the government benefits he is paid every two weeks, Habib said. Asylum seekers are not legally allowed to work.
Habib had been told that Noor’s latest benefit had not been deposited into his bank account when it was due on Wednesday and that Noor had returned to the bank each day in the hope of making a withdrawal.
Noor’s friends had become concerned by the state of his mental health as years passed without his refugee claim being resolved.
“This system makes all of them crazy. They’re in legal limbo,” Habib said.
Police have yet to announce a motive for the fire, which was quickly extinguished.
Closed-circuit television footage showed Noor walking toward the bank carrying a plastic bottle of gasoline that he had bought from a nearby gas station moments before the blaze.
Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on Saturday declined to comment on Noor’s refugee claim.
“You’d have to lose your mind to do something so cruel,” Joyce told reporters.
Noor arrived in Australia shortly before July 19, 2013, when the government introduced a hard-line policy banning refugees who arrive by boat after that date from ever making Australia home. Since then, asylum seekers have been sent to Australia-run camps on the Pacific island nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
Two refugees on Nauru set themselves alight within a week early this year. The first was a 23-year-old Iranian man who died. A 21-year-old Somali woman survived after hospital treatment in Australia.
Noor was initially detained in an immigration camp on the Australian territory of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean before he was relocated to Melbourne on a bridging visa while awaiting the outcome of his refugee application, Curr said.


UK to reopen thousands of shops in easing of coronavirus lockdown, says Boris Johnson

Updated 56 min 36 sec ago

UK to reopen thousands of shops in easing of coronavirus lockdown, says Boris Johnson

  • From June 1, outdoor markets and car showrooms could be reopened
  • Johnson is keen to restart an economy which has been all but shut down since Britain entered a lockdown

LONDON: Britain will reopen thousands of high street shops, department stores and shopping centers next month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday, setting out a timetable for businesses as part of moves to ease the coronavirus lockdown.
He told a news conference that from June 1, outdoor markets and car showrooms could be reopened as soon as they are able to meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines, and all other non-essential retail from June 15 if the government’s tests are met.
Johnson is keen to restart an economy which has been all but shut down since Britain entered a lockdown to try to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, but also fears a second peak of infection if measures are eased too quickly.

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READ MORE: Aide to British PM Dominic Cummings says he doesn’t regret COVID-19 lockdown trip

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“Today, I want to give the retail sector notice of our intentions to reopen shops, so they too can get ready,” Johnson said. “There are careful but deliberate steps on the road to rebuilding our country.”
The government said shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, would be expected to be able to reopen from June 15, giving them three weeks to prepare.
It said that businesses would only be able to open from those dates once they had completed a risk assessment, in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and are confident they are managing the risks.
“The high street sits at the heart of every community in the country,” Business minister Alok Sharma said in a statement.
“Enabling these businesses to open will be a critical step on the road to rebuilding our economy, and will support millions of jobs across the UK.”