The deportation charter flight to Sri Lanka took off yesterday evening, 16 June, while deliberations were still underway at the High Court. It is understood that one deportee won their injunction, but not until after the flight was in the air.
Another flight is scheduled, and British charity Freedom from Torture (formerly the Medical Foundation) is gravely concerned. The charity has received referrals to help 334 survivors of torture from Sri Lanka in the last two years, and believes the deportees may face serious risks on their return.
At least two deportees have attempted suicide. One supporter told NCADC today that his friend in detention was terrified of being taken to the “4th floor” in Colombo.
A class action Judicial Review had been lodged in the High Court on behalf of several Tamils by Karim Assaad at Ravi Solicitors. He believes they are at risk of torture as a result of the UK Border Agency sharing confidential asylum files with the Sri Lankan government, and by allowing Sri Lankan officials to question Tamils held in UK detention centres.
Channel 4 News reports that an MP has accused the UK Government of “painting targets on the backs” of Tamil civilians being deported from the UK, and says at least two have attempted suicide rather than face the return to Sri Lanka. Following the broadcast of the Channel 4 documentary Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, MP Siobhain McDonagh has told the Commons the British Government is complicit in the torture of Tamil civilians as it plans to deport refugees whose confidential asylum files have been shared.
Amnesty International had called for flight to be cancelled, as their is a very real risk of torture. Amnesty has documented the endemic use of torture in Sri Lanka and a culture of impunity prevails.
“Nobody should be deported from the UK if they are at risk of torture. The end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka in May 2009 has not diminished the risks faced by failed Sri Lankan asylum seekers, who continue to be subjected to arrest and detention upon their arrival in Sri Lanka. We are aware of cases of returned asylum seekers being tortured,” said Yolanda Foster, Sri Lanka Researcher at Amnesty International.
Human Rights Watch wrote to the UK Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary, also urging a halt to the flight, but it seems that the UK government was intent on enforcing these removals in spite of the worldwide condemnation.
Meanwhile, AlertNet has reported today that Sri Lanka’s main ethnic minority Tamil party had it’s election campaign attacked by the military in the former war zone in the north, ahead of the first local government polls in 26 year, and there are calls for the England cricket team to pull out of it’s upcoming tour of Sri Lanka.
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