Colombo (AsiaNews) - "We have no intention of staying in Sri Lanka. We did not come here to live. We need a base elsewhere to start over because we can no longer live in Pakistan. If we go back, we will be killed. Our lives are no longer safe in our country," said a Pakistani clergyman from the Save the Lord's Sheeps (Protestant) Church.
Through AsiaNews, he is pleading with the Government of Sri Lanka to stop once and for all deportations of dozens of Pakistani and Afghan asylum seekers after the Sri Lankan Department of Immigration and Emigration began expelling foreign nationals on 1 August.
So far, 88 Pakistanis have been deported. At first only men were expelled, but in recent days, entire families have been sent back to Pakistan.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) asked the government to stop the deportations, pointing out that members of religious minorities in Pakistan may need international protection.
Over recent months, Sri Lankan authorities have tracked down and detained asylum seekers, placing them in refugee camps.
According to data from the local UNHCR office, at least 157 asylum-seekers - including 84 Pakistanis, 71 Afghans and 2 Iranians - are in detention camps.
One of these camps is in Boossa. "We are Christians and we arrived here in February," said the Pakistani clergyman. "We settled in Moratuwa. We were in 26, but now many men were taken to the Boosa camp."
"We were told that it was a quiet place, but torture and assaults occur in there, particularly against men," a Pakistani woman told AsiaNews. Her husband and three children (aged 21, 20 and 18) are held in the camp.