Netherlands failed to help self-immolation victim

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On Wednesday, Kambiz Roustayi set himself on fire on Dam Square in Amsterdam’s city centre. A day later the 36-year-old Iranian died of his injuries. A friend of his, Parvis Noshirrani told Dutch television that Mr Roustayi talked about committing suicide when they were in an asylum centre together. But he received no help from the Dutch authorities.

“He was fed up with the situation. Roaming the city, sleeping in the streets. No status, no travel documents, no future. If he had returned to Iran, he probably faced the same fate. He was scared of being arrested and executed,” Mr Noshirrani told current affairs programme Nieuwsuur.

Pressure
Mr Noshirrani had to break the tragic news to Mr Roustayi’s family in Iran. His self-immolation was filmed on mobile phones. Mr Roustayi had been in the Netherlands for 11 years and expected to be deported. He fled to the Netherlands after he says he published articles in Iran which the authorities disapproved of. His requests for asylum failed each time.

Mr Roytayi’s lawyer Frank van Haren saw that his client was under severe mental pressure.
“He would look at me for a long time. Sometimes he would interrupt a conversation in which we were being positive by saying, ‘Do you really believe that?’ There were all kinds of signs.”

Responsibility
Mr Roustayi announced he was planning to commit suicide at a meeting with civil servants on 25 March at the asylum centre. But his friend Mr Noshirrani says he was not taken seriously and was not given help. Earlier this week, he wanted to jump in front of a train, but his friend persuaded him not to.

Mr Van Haren is also very critical of the Dutch authorities: “The authorities may be right to reject an asylum request and deport an asylum seeker, but if he is still here after eight or ten years and you see him deteriorating, and become mentally finished, only physically okay, there comes a time when the authorities have to take responsibility. You cannot just show someone the door.”

Legal assistance
Mr Roustayi’s act of desperation had a clear goal, says Mr Noshirrani. “He wanted to save other lives by ending his own. There are plenty of people in asylum centres, there are plenty of people who are deported without mercy.”

Immigration and Asylum Minister Gerd Leers called Mr Roustayi’s death ‘very tragic’, but says all the procedures were followed correctly and that the man was given proper legal assistance.

Second death
The Iranian embassy in The Hague says it is regrettable that an Iranian citizen abroad finds himself in such a difficult position that he kills himself. The Netherlands should in their words improve the ‘unacceptable situation of immigrants’. The embassy says it’s the second death in a week. It is not clear who the first case was. The Iranian embassy was unavailable for comment this morning.