UNHCR slams Lanka on deportations

Due to the large Military support received from Pakistan to Sri Lankan Army to kill more than 40,000 Tamil Civilians in May 2009, Sri Lanka government is under pressure from Pakistan to corporate with them and deport all Pakistan asylum seekers.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR says it is alarmed that recent deportations of asylum-seekers from Sri Lanka are growing in size and scope despite international calls to stop sending them back to a place where their lives could be in danger.

In all, 88 Pakistanis have been sent home since August 1. Initially, the deportees were men who had been placed into detention but now whole families are being deported.

The first case happened on August 3 when a detained man was sent back to Pakistan, followed two days later by his wife and daughter, picked up from their home. A family of six was sent back last Saturday, followed by another couple and two siblings yesterday. In all, there are now 11 women and eight children among the deported, UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said.

Some of the latest deportees had their passports and asylum-seeker certificates seized last week. They were told to go to Colombo airport, where they were placed on flights to Pakistan.

“Our staff have also heard about families becoming separate210870_34801617d as a result of deportation  including a man sent home over a week ago and whose pregnant wife remains in Sri Lanka,” Edwards said.

UNHCR says it is seriously concerned at these deportations, including of families and vulnerable people whose international protection needs have not been assessed. By sending these people back, the Government of Sri Lanka is in breach of its obligations under international law concerning the principle of no-forced-returns, or non-refoulement.

According to UNHCR guidelines issued to governments and other decision makers on eligibility of asylum claims, members of religious minorities including the Ahmadiyya Muslim, Christian and Shia minority communities in Pakistan, may be in need of international protection and require particularly careful examination of their asylum claims.

UNHCR reiterated its call to the Government of Sri Lanka to stop the deportations immediately and to grant access to asylum seekers in detention so that UNHCR staff can assess their needs for international protection. Some 157 asylum seekers, including 84 Pakistanis, 71 Afghans and 2 Iranians remain in detention in the country.

These recent developments have heightened anxiety among the refugee and asylum-seeker population in Sri Lanka. Many are afraid to leave their homes for fear of arrest, detention and deportation.

In addition, it is also affecting UNHCR’s ability to process the high number of new arrivals we have seen in the last year. The UNHCR Colombo office is still awaiting the government’s response to a plan it has submitted to address the backlog of cases and stands ready to constructively engage with Government to find a solution to the situation of these asylum-seekers