The death of a 33-year-old Indian man, who was born in Punjab and worked under appalling conditions in Australia and died of tuberculosis, was "the saddest story" and will be reported to the country's immigration department, a top Australian official said today.
Manjit Singh, who came to Australia in 2006 and worked on a 457 visa (temporary work visa), was a victim of exploitation and died at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney on August 26, 2011.
"It is one of the saddest stories that I have encountered in nearly eight years as a coroner," said New South Wales deputy state coroner Hugh Dillon while announcing his findings into the death.
According to media reports, Dillon will write to the minister for immigration about Singh's case.
The inquest heard that when Singh migrated on a 457 visa in February 2006, he believed he was going to be paid USD 43,000 per year working at an Indian restaurant. Singh later described the conditions he lived in as slave-like to the Australian Federal Police
According to his statement to officers, he was required to work from 8 am until midnight, seven days a week. He slept in the restaurant's storeroom at night, had limited food to eat, no mobile or internet access and had no shower or bath, the report said.
Singh stopped working at the restraunt in 2008 but in 2009 he was malnourished, folate deficient and had severe vitamin D deficiency.
By August 2011 his once-latent tuberculosis had flared up and part of his right lung was described as "unsalvageable" and removed. He died as a result of surgery.
Dillon said it was put to him by counsel for Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) that the current system is "not broken, so there is no need to fix it".
"I hope that DIBP is not so complacent that it thinks that Manjit Singh's case is unimportant for what it reveals about the potential threats to the welfare of 457 visa holders, and for public health," Dillon said. "And I hope that DIBP is not so complacent that it believes its systems cannot be improved," he said.
While he did not make specific recommendations for DIBP in relation to 457 visas, Dillon said he would be writing to the immigration minister.
Singh was born in Punjab and did a food and beverage service diploma. He started an apprenticeship as a chef at the very modest International Hotel in Jalandhar and met Gurjit Singh there who later sponsored his Australian temporary visa application.