Suren Karththikesu remembers the cheers when migrants on board the MV Sun Sea first spotted the Canadian flag. The 492 Sri Lankan Tamils had been at sea for three months, on a dangerous voyage across the Pacific Ocean. The flag, hung from a navy vessel that would help escort the Sun Sea to the British Columbia shore five years ago this week, offered the passengers new lives away from the civil war that had ravaged their home country.
We can’t have it both ways. We know we are sending some people back to danger but there is no monitoring or political will to ensure their safety and positive reintegration. The Sri Lankan government has its own challenges to re-build its economy and to ensure security and safety for its people, including returnees and deportees from abroad. A network of support for this group of vulnerable people is needed to alleviate fears and provide economic support.
“”In the case of the 157 Tamil asylum seekers, customs officials asked no questions about the asylum seekers’ safety in India or reasons for leaving Sri Lanka. They asked only “brief biographical details,” the court heard.
Ron Merkel QC, acting for the asylum seekers, told the court sending the Tamils back to India, where they had no right to be registered as refugees, no work rights, or access to health or education services, was a breach of international law. The asylum seekers also faced the risk of being sent back to Sri Lanka from India.””
Asylum seekers who sought protection in Australia and were returned to Sri Lanka say they have been tortured, in new claims aired on SBS.
In an SBS Dateline program aired on Tuesday night two asylum seekers – known as Bhanu and Narada – made allegations they had been tortured after being returned to Sri Lanka from Australia.
SYDNEY, July 28 (Reuters) – A group of 157 migrants, thought to be Sri Lankan asylum seekers, arrived at a detention camp in Australia, government officials said on Monday, after having been held at sea by authorities for almost a month.
“More than 150 asylum seekers are being held behind locked doors on a customs ship, in rooms without windows and with no idea where they are or where the Abbott government plans to take them.”
the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), which works extensively with Sri Lankan Tamils in India — estimates that 800 asylum seekers have disappeared over a three-year period, while trying to travel from South India to Australia by sea. It’s an appalling and largely unpublicized figure, if true.
The UN’s refugee agency has sought an explanation from the Sri Lankan Government why large numbers of Pakistani asylum seekers are being arrested and detained – with local and UN officials making conflicting claims on the issue. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has also warned the Government that any deportations or expulsions would be in violation of international law – a principle called “non-refoulement”, which forbids the handing over of victims of persecution to their persecutors.
Labor, the Greens, Clive Palmer and a group of 53 legal experts have called on the federal government to reveal how asylum seekers are being assessed on board customs vessels, as the Sri Lankan government confirmed that 41 asylum seekers being returned via an unprecedented on-water transfer to the Sri Lankan navy will be handed to the police when they arrive back.
Opens PDF: Statement from Refugee Council of Australia.
“Australia risks committing the most flagrant of all breaches under the Refugee Convention if it removes Tamil asylum seekers off Christmas Island to Sri Lanka without investigating their claims for refugee status, the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) said today.”
SYDNEY (REUTERS) – Australia promised on Tuesday not to return a boatload of asylum seekers to Sri Lanka without providing 72 hours notice, a move hailed by human rights lawyers as a minor victory in a case that has raise concerns about the country’s tough immigration policy.
“Ocean 12 are sporting warriors like no other. Padded up and steeled for action in a suburban league in Sydney, the team is made up of Tamil asylum seekers competing for a place in the finals of a global cricket competition.”
Human rights and asylum seeker advocates are condemning a decision to employ a former Sri Lankan military officer as the acting operations manager of the Manus Island detention centre.
“It’s completely inappropriate for anyone with links to the Sri Lankan military to be in charge of the welfare and well-being of vulnerable asylum seekers, including Tamils….There’s a high likelihood that the Tamils being held there are fleeing persecution at the hands of the Sri Lankan military. This isn’t about the activities of this one man. It’s about [the] way that Australia takes care of the asylum seekers who are in its custody. The placing of an ex-military commander from a source country for refugees like Sri Lanka highlights Australia’s complete insensitivity to the very real risks and suffering that those asylum seekers are fleeing.”