» 08/08/2014, 00.00
Sri Lanka, UN to government: Stop deporting Pakistani and Afghan refugees
Melani Manel Perera
The authorities justify the deportations with the increase in the number of refugees. Many of them are Christians and Muslims (Shia and Sunni) fleeing threats from religious extremists. Christian Human Rights activist: "We should face the issue in a brotherly way, we are all human beings."
Colombo (AsiaNews) - "It makes no sense to express
sympathy after deporting a group of asylum seekers who sought refuge in Sri
Lanka. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has to dialogue
with the government", Christian lawyer and human rights activist Lakshan Dias
tells AsiaNews, commenting on the
deportation - August 1 and 5 - of 36 Pakistanis, after two months spent in
detention in Colombo.
Earlier this month the Department of Immigration and
Emigration reported that Pakistani and Afghan nationals visiting Sri Lanka will
no longer receive a tourist visa before arrival at the airport, and that asylum
seekers who are on the island without a long-term visa will be deported to
their countries of origin.
The Department said that the operation provides for the
repatriation of 147 Pakistanis and 85 Afghans arrested by Sri Lankan
The many asylum seekers include many Christians and Shiite and
Sunni Muslims, fleeing from Pakistan and Afghanistan because threatened by
religious extremists. "The Taliban are killing us," says a young
Afghan to AsiaNews. "We can no
longer live there in a peaceful manner and that's why we came to Sri Lanka, in
order then to move to another country."
"We should not forget - Lakshan Dias tells AsiaNews - there are at least 4 million
Sri Lankans abroad in search of protection as refugees. These Pakistanis who
have come to seek protection for their lives are not an intolerable burden for
Sri Lanka . We must address this issue with a sense of brotherhood, because we
are all human beings".
The UN agency has urged the Sri Lankan government to stop
the deportations and allow them to meet with refugees and asylum seekers still
detained in Colombo, to assess their conditions.
UNHCR spokeswoman Arane Rummery says: "We understand
that the recent actions of the Sri Lankan government have been in response to
the increase in the number of asylum seekers. However, we are unable to monitor their return
conditions, and appeal to the Sri Lankan authorities to respect the principle
of non-refoulement by not sending people back to a place where their lives
could be in danger without the opportunity to assess their needs for international
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