An asylum seeker at Villawood detention centre has set himself on fire and is in hospital with serious burns, sparking an investigation by the immigration department.
The male asylum seeker sought protection in Australia along with his family in 2010 and now has six children including a two month old infant.
The asylum seeker’s wife told Guardian Australia she was at a library with her children when she received a call about the incident.
“From what I’ve been told is that it is self inflicted harm and it’s a burn incident,” she said. “There was about 10% burns on his face right down to the left of his neck.”
She said the immigration department has not provided her with further details about the incident or events preceding it.
Her husband had been suffering depression since he was taken to Villawood in January 2015. He made a previous self-harm attempt while in detention.
“He has not seen or touched the newborn child,” she said. “He doesn’t want the kids to even see him in detention. He doesn’t want them to be a part of it.”
The family sought protection in Australia from the United Arab Emirates after arriving on a tourism visa by plane to Australia in 2010. They were refused a protection visa in 2010, and lost an appeal to the refugee review tribunal in 2011.
The man was taken back into detention following an unsuccessful federal court bid. His wife and children were also taken to Villawood detention centre in June 2015, but were released so she could give birth to her sixth child.
The family has exhausted most avenues of legal appeal for their protection claims in Australia.
“Why he did this is because he felt so helpless,” the man’s wife said. “Sometimes it’s too much. I cannot measure it anymore.”
A spokeswoman for Department of Immigration and Border Protection said: “The department can confirm that a male detainee was taken to hospital yesterday 17 September 2015, following a self-harm incident at Villawood IDC.
“The individual is receiving appropriate medical treatment, but his injuries have been assessed as non-life threatening. The department is investigating the matter.”
The incident is the second time a person held in immigration detention has set themselves on fire this week.
On Tuesday Ali Jaffari, a Hazara man in Perth immigration detention centre, also set himself on fire and later died from his injuries.
In May 2014 a Tamil asylum seeker, Leo Seemanpillai, self- immolated after spending 18 months in legal limbo.
In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here.