Lankan Asylum Seekers: Variety and Spice in Several Tales

There are people seeking asylum in SL – UNHCR

From the Island, 21 June 2011

It is little known by most Sri Lankans that there are refugees and people seeking asylum inSri Lanka, said UNHCR’s Representative Michael Zwack. Issuing a statement to mark the World Refugee Day, on June 20, the UNHCR’s Representative said, although numbers are very small in comparison to most countries,Sri Lankacurrently hosts 236 registered refugees and 141 asylum seekers. We appreciate the good cooperation received by UNHCR from government, he said.

According to UNHCR, Sri Lanka is one country whose refugees are slowly starting to return after the conflict has ended. Since 2010, some 2,900 refugees, mainly from Tamil Nadu in India, have returned with the help of the UNHCR, and they continue to arrive in steady numbers. In addition, over 200 refugees returned on their own accord. According to the UNHCR’s latest Global Trends statistics for 2010, just released, that there are 141, 063 Sri Lankan refugees and 8,563 Sri Lankan asylum seekers in different countries around the world – the majority in India.

Meanwhile, UNHCR, in a report released last year said, given the cessation of hostilities, Sri Lankans originating from the North of the country are no longer in need of international protection under broader refugee criteria or complementary forms of protection solely on the basis of risk of indiscriminate harm.

The UN Refugee Agency, releasing its report on 5 July, 2010, titled ‘Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Asylum-Seekers fromSri Lanka’, further said that human rights and security situation in Sri Lanka had improved.

“In light of the improved human rights and security situation inSri Lanka, there is no longer a need for group-based protection mechanisms or for a presumption of eligibility for Sri Lankans of Tamil ethnicity originating from the North of the country,” the UNHCR report stated. Currently, more than 43 million people are displaced by violence around the world.Europeis no longer home to them. The vast majority – about 80 percent – are hosted and cared for in developing countries, the statement said.

Today’s chronicle conflicts are a cause for special concern: What we see is that as new conflicts flared old ones are left unresolved. This leads to new displacement on the one hand and millions of people being prevented from returning home on the other. Fewer than 200,000 refugees went home in 2010, the lowest number in 20 years, the UNHCR statement said.

“It is necessary for the international community to step forward and act. Whether it be to keep borders open to those seeking safety from violence or persecution, or to provide solutions to long-term refugees. We need to invest in peace, people need to be helped to go home, or to be given a chance to start new lives, it further said.


Refugees trying to flee to Australia arrested in Tamilnadu

Island, 15  June 2011

A group of 24 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, lodged in two camps in Tamil Nadu, were arrested yesterday when they were attempting to travel illegally toAustralia, the Tamil Nadu police said. The refugees, lodged in Vridhachalam and Tiruchirappalli camps, were spotted standing near the seashore off Sonankuppam village in the early hours by the local villagers, who informed police, the PTI reported. During questioning, the refugees told police that they had paid about Rs 700,000 to an agent for taking them toAustralia by a mechanised boat, police said. The State Q branch police registered a case and are searching for the agent hailing from Vridhachalam in Cuddalore district. Since last year, there had been several instances of Sri Lankan refugees attempting to illegally travel toAustraliaand other countries from different coastal towns in Tamil Nadu, neighbouring Puducherry and Kerala seeking greener pastures.  Last week, a group of nine Sri Lankan nationals were detained inKochi following suspicion that they were trying to travel illegally to another country.


Lankan asylum seekers to be deported from Britain

From the Island, 16 June 2011:  Dozens of Sri Lankan asylum seekers, including some with links to the Tamil Tigers, are expected to be deported fromBritainto return to the country. About 40 are believed to be facing deportation, with human rights campaigners fearing the refugees may suffer reprisals in Sri Lanka. News of the deportations came as ‘Channel 4’ showed video footage of alleged atrocities carried out during the final weeks of the 2009 conflict.‘Channel 4’ claimed the group of asylum seekers, many of whom are Tamil, were being forced back into danger with a flight believed to be scheduled for tomorrow. Five of the 40 said their lives were at risk after claiming UK officials had passed paperwork about their cases to the Sri Lankan authorities.

Sam Zarifi, the Asia programme director for Amnesty International, said there was evidence that failed asylum seekers had been tortured.He said: “If people are being returned toSri Lanka, who are known or are suspected to be Tamils associated with the LTTE, the possibility of reprisals from the authorities are a concern.” A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: “Returns toSri Lanka will only be undertaken if we are satisfied that the individual has no protection needs. The improving situation inSri Lanka has meant it is safe to remove people there.” (The Telegraph)


‘Ocean Lady’ operators arrested for human smuggling

From the Island, 16 June 2011: Four people, suspected of organizing a human smuggling ship that brought dozens of Sri Lankan migrants to Canada’s West Coast in 2009, were arrested by RCMP officers in Toronto on Tuesday. The captains, chief engineer and assistant engineer of the MV Ocean Lady were charged with “organizing entry intoCanada” and will be transported back toVancouver this week to appear before a judge.”These individuals are alleged to be involved with organizing the overall venture and being active leaders on the vessel,” Supt. Tom Jones, head of the RCMP Border Integrity Programme in B.C., told reporters.

The arrests are the first to result from several ongoing RCMP investigations into Southeast Asia-based human smugglers who have ferried hundreds of Sri Lankan refugee claimants toCanadaaboard two freighters. Charged are: Vignarajah “Raja” Thevarajah, 33; Francis “Mano” Anthonimuthu Appulonappa, 33; Hamalraj “Kamal” Handasamy, 39; and Jeyachandran Kanagarajah, 32. All are Sri Lankan citizens who came toCanada aboard the ‘Ocean Lady’.

They were arrested without incident after they were told to report to the Greater Toronto Canada Border Services Agency office on Tuesday morning. If convicted, the CBSA could attempt to block their refugee claims and deport them. Jones declined to elaborate on what roles police believe the men played on the ship, but a classified document obtained by the National Post describes them as the operators of the vessel.(Postmedia News from Toronto)

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