Australia

Australia bank fire started by Myanmar asylum seeker

A fire-damaged cash machine at the Commonwealth Bank Springvale in Melbourne (18 November) Image copyright EPA
Image caption The fire blackened an ATM in front of the bank branch

An asylum seeker from Myanmar has been identified as the man who set himself alight in a bank in the Australian city of Melbourne on Friday.

The 21-year-old is under guard in hospital after the incident that injured 26 others.

He arrived by boat three years ago and had been released from detention pending a decision on his case.

It was reported that his benefits had not been in his account when he tried to withdraw them on Wednesday.

'Legal limbo'

The man, known to his friends as Noor, set himself alight using gasoline at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia branch in the Melbourne suburb of Springvale.

Five bystanders suffered burns and 21 more smoke inhalation.

Video taken by eyewitnesses of the immediate aftermath showed flames inside the bank branch and thick black smoke, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The suspect had arrived in Australia as an unaccompanied minor and was awaiting receipt of a refugee visa.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Five bystanders suffered burns and 21 more smoke inhalation

The man was reportedly of mixed Muslim parentage. Although he is partly Rohingya - the Muslim community that lives in Rakhine state near the Bangladesh border and which has been denied citizenship and freedom of movement by the government - he reportedly lived in southern Myanmar.

He had been detained in a camp on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean before being moved to Melbourne.

The president of the Australian Burmese Rohingya Organisation, Habib Habib, told the Melbourne Age: "He has been suffering and his friends say his welfare payment was not received and he couldn't pay his rent."

He had returned to the bank each day after finding his money was not available on Wednesday.

Mr Habib said: "This system makes all of them crazy. They're in legal limbo."

Refugee and asylum seeker advocate Pamela Curr told the Age the man was also was known to have mental health problems.

The department of immigration has set up a fast-track system to process about 30,000 asylum claims. Ms Curr said this had caused uncertainty in the community.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce expressed concern for those who were burned in the incident.

"There's nothing more disturbing than a burns ward. Maybe he had lost his mind - you'd have to lose your mind to do something so cruel," Mr Joyce said.