Change of govt. likely to affect bogus SL asylum seekers

imagesby Shamindra Ferdinando 

The Home Office closely monitored the situation in countries that generated asylum seekers to the UK, including Sri Lanka, and provided accurate, objective, sourced and up to date country information for the use of those officials involved in the asylum decision making process, a spokesperson for the British High Commission said yesterday. 

She was responding to a query by The Island whether the Home Office would be reviewing its position consequent to the change of government in Colombo. 

The spokesperson said: “All asylum and human rights applications from Sri Lankans are carefully considered on their individual merits in accordance with the UK’s obligations under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Protection is granted to those applicants who face a real risk of persecution or ill-treatment. Those applicants who are found not to need international protection have a right of appeal to the appellate authorities. In this way, the UK ensures that it provides protection to those asylum seekers who need it.” 

External Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera declared in New Delhi on January 19 that the situation was conducive for those who had fled the country during the conflict to come back. 

Canadian government spokesperson Nancy Caron told The Island that in spite of the change of government in Sri Lanka, the Canadian position with regard to asylum seekers hadn’t changed. 

According to her, rules governing resettlement in Canada for refugees as well as asylum claims made in Canada remained the same for all asylum seekers, including Sri Lankans. 

The US embassy spokesman told The Island: ” America has a long tradition offering refuge to the persecuted.  The process for political asylum follows strict immigration laws and international treaties. This process has not changed consequent to the change of government in Colombo.  Each asylum case is determined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on an individual basis.” 

However, the Indian High Commission as well as the Australian High Commission didn’t respond to The Island query. The UK based Global Tamil Forum (GTF), too, remained silent though the same query was directed to the grouping. 

The GTF, British Tamil Forum (BTF) and several other international human rights organizations as well as some members of foreign parliaments strongly campaigned against the repatriation of bogus asylum seekers even after the end of the conflict in May 2009. 

GOSL sources told The Island that bogus asylum seekers had been claiming refugee status on false claims of persecution back at home. The situation remained the same even five years after the conclusion of the conflict, though Australia took sharply different stand with the bogus refugee issue, sources said. Asked whether the government would take up this issue with countries targeted by bogus refugees, sources said some embassies had backed claims for political asylum on the basis of nonexistent security threats. 

Well informed sources said that some of those who had been prevented from leaving country during the previous government would take the opportunity to leave for foreign destinations. On the advice of security services, the previous administration adopted stringent security measures to thwart some persons related to LTTE from leaving the country.