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April 28, 2010

UNHCR REVIEW–SRI LANKA IS UNSAFE: REFUGEE GROUPS CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT TO UNFREEZE SRI LANKAN ASYLUM CLAIMS

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media Release April 28, 2010

“The release of the UNHCR review into Sri Lanka has blown a huge hole in the Rudd government’s justification for freezing Sri Lankan refugee visa applications,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The Immigration Minister said that the government freeze was based on the UNHCR review, but there is nothing in the Cori Country Report, 2101 that supports the government’s decision to freeze Sri Lankan refugee applications.

“We are calling on the government to reverse the freeze and begin processing Sri Lanka and Afghan applications. It is now obvious that the decision was not based on human rights considerations but was driven by a domestic political agenda.

“The government should also reverse its decision to re-open Curtin detention centre. But there is no justification for the visa freeze and no justification for the use of Curtin which was meant to hold the victims of the government’s visa freeze,” said Rintoul.

“Tamils have been waiting up to ten and eleven months for answers to their visa applications. The vast majority of those being processed on Christmas Island are found to be refugees. The government needs to put more resources into processing more applications, not freezing applications. And it needs to stand up to the disgraceful and unfounded anti-refugee statements coming from the Opposition.”

The UNHCR report (http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4bd1aa632.html) documents in detail the scale of the Sri Lankan government sponsored human rights violations, eg quoting International Crisis Group, January 2010, “Eight months later, the post-war policies of President Mahinda Rajapaksa have deepened rather than resolved grievances that generated and sustained LTTE militancy.”

The US Department of State (USDOS) report states that, “…outside of the conflict zone the overwhelming majority of victims of human rights violations, such as extrajudicial killings and disappearances, were young male Tamils, while Tamils were estimated to be only 16 percent of the overall population.” The USDOS reports that “Tamils throughout the country, but especially in the conflict-affected north and east, reported frequent harassment of young and middle-aged Tamil men by security forces and paramilitary groups.” In January 2010 the International Crisis Group reported that more than 12,000 Tamils were held in irregular detention centres on suspicion of ties to the LTTE.”

It documents actions by the European Union to suspend Sri Lanka’s preferential trade benefits due to “significant shortcomings in Sri Lanka’s implementation of international human rights conventions.”

According to Human Rights Watch, “[e]nforced disappearances and abductions, a longstanding and widespread problem in Sri Lanka, continued, especially in the north and east. From January to June 2009, 16 enforced disappearances were reported in Trincomalee district alone.” The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office states that “[a]lthough fewer in number, reports of abductions have continued throughout the latter stages of” 2009.

The United States Human Rights Report 2010 documented, “In Colombo, however, according to the USDOS, “police refused to register Tamils from the north and the east…sometimes forcing them to return to their homes in areas affected by the conflict.”

“Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum seekers have been victims of persecution in their own countries. It’s time the persecution stopped,” said Ian Rintoul.

For more information contact Refugee Action Coalition: Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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