An article in the UK Guardian from Friday, 14th September, reports that the UK intends to move forward with a mass deportation of Tamils to Sri Lanka next week. Many of them arrived in the State to claim asylum, describing accounts of torture and ill-treatment.
Human rights organizations Freedom from Torture and Human Rights Watch both have corroborated those statements, arguing that “the government has severely underestimated this possibility [of torture] when it comes to returned Tamils, many of whom are routinely arrested and questioned about links with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and activities in the UK, with torture often playing a part.” The UK Guardian has previously reported about aTamil man who had been refused asylum in the UK and tortured upon his return to Sri Lanka. Despite this, the UK Border Agency refuses to discuss the flights that are scheduled to deport the Tamils until after they have taken off.
Freedom from Torture notes, “This rate of referrals involving torture following return from the UK to a particular country is, to the best of our knowledge, unprecedented since Freedom from Torture was founded in 1985.”
A UK Border Spokesman said, “The UK has a proud record of offering sanctuary to those who need it, but people who do not have a genuine need for our protection must return to their home country. We only undertake returns to Sri Lanka when we are satisfied that the individual has no international protection needs. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that not all Tamil asylum seekers require protection.”
The head of Human Rights Watch, David Mepham, has said that HRW has documented a series of cases where failed asylum seekers from Tamil have faced torture or serious threats of torture upon their return to Sri Lanka. He recommended, “Given the very serious risk of torture facing many Tamils returned from this country, the UK should immediately impose a moratorium on these returns, pending a thorough review of UK policy in this area and the introduction of new assessment guidelines.”
At this point, it appears that the flights will go ahead as scheduled, but hopefully in the future, the UK Border Agency will more carefully review each case to prevent Tamils being returned to a situation where they would face torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.