Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sri Lanka refuses to comply with UNHCR and continues deporting Pakistani assylum seekers

The Sri Lankan Government today hit back at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) agency and the UN over allegations that it was in breach of its obligations under international law by deporting Pakistani asylum seekers from Sri Lanka.

Speaking at the weekly Cabinet press briefing, Minister of Mass Media and Information, Keheliya Rambukwella countered that the government was never in breach of international law as it was not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. He further said UNHCR’s claims that by its actions, Sri Lanka was violating the principle of non-refoulement (no-forced-returns) were irrelevant as there is a treaty that deals with refugees, and Sri Lanka was not a party to it.

He claimed the asylum-seekers were abusing the country’s visa policy by arriving in the country on a 30 day tourist visa and then overstaying. “They come here as tourists and then claim asylum. We are not a party to the treaty that states we are obliged to let them stay here,” the minister stressed.     

“Bottom line is that we have not done anything wrong (in deporting them),” Rambukwella insisted.

He said the External Affairs Ministry Secretary had visited Pakistan and held discussions on the issue with Pakistani officials. Rambukwella also said the two governments did not have any problems with each other when it came to returning the asylum seekers.

The minister said the case of Pakistani asylum seekers making their way to Sri Lanka was similar to Sri Lankan asylum seekers making their way illegally to Australia and claiming asylum based on ‘fabrications’.

However, the UN has been highly critical of the deportations. Earlier today, two UN Human Rights experts expressed their ‘grave concern’ at the situation of Pakistani asylum seekers in Sri Lanka who are ‘being detained forcefully and forcefully deported to Pakistan without an adequate assessment of their asylum claims’.

“States must guarantee that every single asylum claim is individually assessed with due process and in line with international law,” stressed the UN Special Rapporteurs on minority issues, Rita Izs├ík, and on freedom of religion and belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, according to a press release issued by the UN.

At least 108 Pakistani citizens have been deported since the beginning of August, according to the UN Refugees Agency (UNHCR).

Most asylum seekers from Pakistan belong to religious minorities, including Ahmadiyya Muslim, Christian and Shia, groups that are often subjected to persecution, discrimination and violence in Pakistan, according to the UN experts. “Many of them are being deported despite being registered with UNHCR and having their first instance interviews still pending.”

“The risks faced by the deportees should never be underestimated but must be adequately assessed” stressed the Special Rapporteurs. “It is our hope that the Government of Sri Lanka will collaborate with the UN Refugees Agency in its work to guarantee the rights of asylum seekers, and avoid any actions that could lead to possible tragic consequences”.
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  1. well,you guys keep on hiding and praying

  2. Bitch stop writing against my country.