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Coroner: Manjit Singh's death is the saddest story

Photograph for representational purpose only Source: beachhousekitchen.com

Manjit Singh came to Australia in 2006 and worked as a cook in Sydney's Indian restaurant

A Coroner said that the death of an Indian man - Manjit Singh, who was working under appalling conditions on a 457 visa in Sydney is one of the saddest stories he has ever heard.

Deputy State Coroner Hugh Dillon will now write to the Minister for Immigration about Manjit Singh’s case, which he described as a “21st-century retelling” of George Orwell’s essay “How the Poor Die”.

Here's how Manjit Singh died: 

Manjit Singh came to Australia in 2006 on a 457 visa. He believed he was going to be paid $43000 per year working at an Indian restaurant. He was 33 when he died at Royal North Shore Hospital on August 26, 2011, from the complications of tuberculosis.

His 457 application was sponsored by Anmol Holdings — trading as North Indian Flavour in Darlinghurst in Sydney’s inner east — and was signed by Gurjit Singh, who described himself as the manager.

Mr 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 8am 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.

Mr Singh also allegedly transferred $12,000 from a loan his father took out into his new boss’s bank account, after he was told he had not passed the medical.

Although Manjit Singh stopped working for Gurjit Singh in 2008, by May 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.

Coroner to write to Immigration Minister

It is “one of the saddest stories that I have encountered in nearly eight years as a coroner,” Mr Dillon said on Monday.

Mr 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,” Mr Dillon said.

“And I hope that DIBP is not so complacent that it believes its systems cannot be improved.” While he did not make specific recommendations for DIBP in relation to 457 visas, Mr Dillon said he would be writing to the immigration minister about the case.

Mr Dillon also recommended the NSW Minister for Health and the Minister for Immigration have their departments work together to find the optimal policy for ensuring the health and welfare of temporary visa holders who are subject to TB health undertakings.