Asylum seeker who set fire to himself dies in hospital

UDDHAV Bhandari, a Nepalese asylum seeker who set himself on fire after being refused permission to stay in the country, has died, fuelling anger at Britain's "inhumane" immigration policy.

Mr Bhandari, 40, died in Glasgow Royal Infirmary on Sunday afternoon, 11 days after pouring petrol on himself at an asylum and immigration tribunal.

The former policeman claimed he was terrified of being sent back to Nepal, where colleagues had turned against him for exposing police corruption. He said he had received death threats.

He had been forced out of the police service and became a journalist. But he inflamed authorities by accusing one of the country's most famous actresses of being a prostitute, claiming that her clients included the crown prince and several politicians.

Mr Bhandari smuggled petrol into the tribunal building and set himself on fire, suffering serious burns.

His brother is trying to obtain a visa so he can travel to Scotland from the United States. Meanwhile, members of the Nepalese community in Scotland have offered to donate money to help send Mr Bhandari's body back to his wife, Ishwori, and two young children in Katmandu.

Mr Bhandari arrived in Britain six years ago and had his asylum claim refused in June 2002. He had been contesting that decision, which the Court of Session decided was legally flawed.

Janet Fenton, co-ordinator of the Peace and Justice Centre in Edinburgh's West End, where Mr Bhandari was a volunteer, said his death was "a terrible waste of a wonderful life". She added: "I cannot imagine what he would bring to this country that wasn't of benefit to everyone - his personality, his ability to work extremely hard, his attitude in the face of grim circumstances and his bravery in being apart from his family.

"The government's policies on these matters are utterly inhumane and utterly ridiculous."

Robina Qureshi, the director of Positive Action in Housing, said the asylum system was beset with bureaucracy and insensitive to those involved.

"He was a victim of an asylum policy that persecutes and tortures the victims of persecution and torture," she said.

Stewart Wightman, a close friend of Mr Bhandari, added: "Uddhav fled his country in genuine fear of his life and, in Edinburgh, contributed a full and significant part to the life of the city."

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "This government will never close the doors to those in need of refuge. However, the asylum system must earn the trust of the public by being robust and resistant to abuse."

Back to the top of the page