Saturday, August 2, 2014

Pakistani asylumseekers Sri Lankan Government and UNHCR

 Colombo Gazette
The Sri Lankan Government today blamed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Sri Lanka over the issue surrounding Pakistani asylum seekers in the country.
Sri Lankan authorities have decided to deport asylum seekers arrested despite them having sought asylum through the UN refugee agency.
The Ministry of External Affairs said that in keeping with its obligations under customary international law, the Sri Lankan Government has been engaging consistently with UNHCR to address and manage the asylum seeker population, particularly its increase.
In March 2013, when these numbers began to increase, the Sri Lankan Government authorities requested the UNHCR in Sri Lanka to assist by taking certain measures, which included the establishment of a safe house/welfare centre for those identified as refugees until they are accepted for resettlement in a third country, the regularization of the process of return of asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected, expediting the process of resettlement to ensure its completion within a short period of time and ensuring that asylum seekers are provided with adequate facilities and monetary assistance to live in Sri Lanka until their claims are processed or resettlement is found.
However, the Ministry of External Affairs says UNHCR has not addressed these requirements and neither has UNHCR managed to expedite the twin processes of status determination of asylum seekers and resettlement of those identified as refugees in third countries.
The Government also said that refugee receiving countries have also been slow in processing resettlement applications.
Sri Lanka says its territory has been used by those seeking asylum for over a decade. However, the asylum seeker/refugee population in Sri Lanka witnessed a dramatic 700 per cent increase during the period 2013-14 and as at 30 June 2014, there are 1562 asylum seekers and 308 refugees.
“The influx of asylum seekers and their tendency not to have an established place of residence has resulted in serious law & order, security, as well as health related issues for the authorities,” the External Affairs Ministry said.
The Government says a State cannot be expected to carry a burden of this nature for an indefinite period of time and therefore, these asylum seekers are being encouraged to return, in the vital security interests of Sri Lanka and the region. (Colombo Gazette)

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