Melbourne bank fire suspect a Rohingya

CCTV footage showing the suspect, known in the local Rohingya community as Nur Islam, carrying a large container of liquid moments before Friday's fire at the Commonwealth Bank's branch in Springvale Road in Melbourne.
CCTV footage showing the suspect, known in the local Rohingya community as Nur Islam, carrying a large container of liquid moments before Friday's fire at the Commonwealth Bank's branch in Springvale Road in Melbourne.PHOTO: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT

Said to be an asylum seeker suffering financial, mental woes, he also faced possible deportation

MELBOURNE • A man who reportedly set himself on fire inside a Melbourne bank has been identified as a Rohingya asylum seeker who came to Australia by boat as an unaccompanied minor in 2013.

Known to his friends in the local Rohingya community as Nur Islam, the suspect was allegedly suffering financial and mental woes, and faced a possibility of being deported back to Myanmar where the Muslim Rohingya face persecution.

Closed-circuit TV footage showed Nur, 21, carrying a large container of liquid moments before Friday's fire at the Commonwealth Bank's branch in Springvale Road in Melbourne, ABC Online reported.

It is believed that before the blaze, he had an altercation with staff at the bank after discovering that his welfare payments have been cut, according to The Age.

Twenty-seven people, including children, were injured in the incident. Two people remain in critical condition.

Police said yesterday that the suspect, who is under police guard in hospital, has not been questioned because he is badly burnt.

Ms Pamela Curr, formerly with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, said contacts had told her the suspect was detained after arriving in Australia and was later released into the community on a bridging visa, ABC Online reported.

The man had been waiting for the Immigration Department to send him a letter of offer to apply for a temporary protection visa by the end of this year, without which he would be deported.

Mr Habib Habib, a member of the Rohingya community in Melbourne, said the suspect had not received the letter which was likely causing him anxiety.

"Now as it is getting closer and they haven't got a letter, they are thinking that they've been passed over or are going to be sent back," Sister Bridget Arthur from the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project was quoted as saying by ABC Online.

Nur had been living in a rundown shared house in Springvale, where he had moved in two months ago.

One of his housemates, Mr Joseph Joseph, told The Age Nur would talk to himself in the middle of the night and claimed to see ghosts.

Nur, who was struggling financially, was also under pressure to send money home to his ailing sister.

"He was disappointed about that because he had no money to send to Burma," said Mr Joseph, using Myanmar's previous name.

Located on a shopping strip, the bank where the fire broke out has been boarded up. The Commonwealth Bank has also ramped up security at its nearby branches, it said in a statement.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 20, 2016, with the headline 'Melbourne bank fire suspect a Rohingya'. Print Edition | Subscribe