Evidence of risk of torture for Tamils returned to Sri Lanka mounts as more people are granted reprieve from deportation from the UK

by zoejardiniere

26.10.2012 A series of UK High Court injunctions have been issued this week, granting a number of members of the Tamil community last-minute reprieve from deportation to Sri Lanka. The charter flight to Sri Lanka, which departed on Tuesday 23 October, was obliged to fly half empty due to several passengers being able to prove that they would run the serious risk of torture upon their return. 28 Sri Lankans were deported, among them Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese, and were handed over to the country’s authorities upon arrival.

This is not the first time that a charter flight due to take asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected back to Sri Lanka has been a matter of controversy. In September, a similar spate of injunctions were issued to protect people from deportation on the same grounds.

Freedom from Torture has published several reports on the issue of returns of members of the Tamil community to Sri Lanka, detailing many cases of torture. Torture has been perpetrated on Tamils, even in instances where returns were of a voluntary, non-permanent nature, and thus not publicised in the same manner and with the individuals not handed directly over to authorities. This indicates for Freedom from Torture researchers, that people on these well-publicised charter flights could be at greater risk still.

Reports from Freedom from Torture confirm that mere residence in the United Kingdom can be enough for the authorities of Sri Lanka to suspect complicity with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) activities and the actions of the diaspora. Membership of the Tamil Tigers, real or perceived, thus puts people at serious risk of ill-treatment and abuse, detention and torture.

Referring to the impending deportation of Tamils on a similar flight in February, Keith Best, Chief Executive of Freedom from Torture and ECRE Board Member, said, “The UK asylum system has clearly failed these people and decision-making by the UK Border Agency in individual cases cannot be relied upon to prevent future cases of torture on return.” On Monday he reiterated his position, stating, “It is not surprising that ministers squirm when asked to attest to the safety of the UK’s removals policy for Sri Lanka because evidence of a major risk miscalculation is stacking up. We are highly concerned that Tamils returning even voluntarily from the UK with any real or perceived LTTE links are at real risk because more than 20 have been referred to us after escaping back with obvious signs of torture.”

For further information:

–                     Freedom from Torture briefing on torture of Sri Lankans returning from the UK

–                     Freedom from Torture calls for halt to deportations

–                     Human Rights Watch letter to the UK Home and Foreign Secretaries on deportations of Tamils