Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Asylum officials 'ignore claims'

December 6, 2012 | smh

Ben Doherty and Bianca Hall

Deported, and in danger?

Sri Lankans sent packing by immigration officials say they are now in peril back in homeland.
ASYLUM seekers forcibly deported from Australia say the government ignored their claims of persecution, granted them only one brief interview in detention and knowingly sent them back to danger in Sri Lanka.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says their forcible deportation, and subsequent imprisonment, raises "troubling concerns" with Australia's asylum processes.
Fairfax Media met with members of the latest group of 50 men expelled from Australia - 38 Tamils and 12 Sinhalese who were deported last Friday - after they were bailed from Negombo court on Sri Lanka's west coast.
Returned Sri Lankans in Negombo. Photo: Ben Doherty
It comes as the Australian government agreed in the High Court on Wednesday to reconsider the refugee claims of 56 Tamil men due to be deported this week.
The men had previously been ''screened out'' of the refugee process but launched a legal bid to have their claims heard.
In Negombo, Megaraj Suresh, a returned Tamil man from Batticaloa, said he had been harassed and beaten by Sri Lankan "government people" because he campaigned for the opposition Tamil National Alliance party. He has previously been jailed for his political activism but said Australia did not listen to his claim.
"I had only one interview to determine my case, they had already decided to send us back," he said.
"They didn't do proper research, they didn't care about my circumstance, or even look at my documents, they were not honest in their assessment."
A spokesman for the UNHCR in Canberra said the agency was troubled by the way Australia was processing people's claims.
''In principal, UNHCR has no objection to the return of people found clearly not to need international protection,'' he said.
''However, the first step must be a fair and accurate process to assess any protection claims that are raised.
''The current procedures raise troubling questions as to both fairness and accuracy, which we have raised with the Australian government.''
An immigration department spokesman would not respond to specific questions about screening processes, saying: ''The department does not discuss specifics of its discussions with clients.''
But he said: ''The removal of these people was consistent with Australia's non-refoulement obligations [not to return people to danger]. Since
May 2012 there has been an increasing number of people outlining that their reasons for coming to Australia were based on economic concerns. The process and then removal of people who make economic claims or who otherwise make unfounded claims for protection is consistent with Australia's obligations.''
Mr Suresh said he feared for his life and for his family.
''The criminal investigation department has my details now, the number of my house where I live, my phone number, everything,'' he said.
''I have great fear for my life. I don't know what I will do.
''I needed Australia to help me but they just sent me back to danger. Now I wait for when the white van will come for me.''
Men in unmarked white vans are notorious in Sri Lanka for snatching people, usually opponents of the government, from the street or their homes.
Rajesh, who gave only one name, said he fled Sri Lanka because of a dispute over a house with government-allied paramilitary troops. ''I spoke honestly … about my safety situation but they didn't want to accept my answers,'' he said.
Australian Tamil Congress spokesman Bala Vigneswaran said one of the men marked for return had contacted him to say he told Australian authorities he feared for his life if he returned to Sri Lanka.
Officials talked to the man ''for only five minutes'', Mr Vigneswaran said the asylum seeker told him. The man tried to tell an official he was a refugee but Mr Vigneswaran said she replied: ''No I am not here to hear all those stories, you are going.'' He said the man ''kneeled down and begged and cried and they said, 'Please leave now', and he came back [from the screening interview] after only three minutes''.
Leading refugee lawyer David Manne said: ''If Australia were to summarily expel someone without due process who had expressed fears of being persecuted that would amount to a flagrant violation and a flagrant rejection of our obligations under the Refugee Convention.
''The concern here is not that all of these people are refugees - they may or may not be - the concern is that we don't know because they have been denied basic due process.''
The Sri Lankan government denies allegations that anyone faces mistreatment. But the Australian government has acknowledged persecution continues to exist in Sri Lanka, three years since the end of the war.
At a UN human rights meeting in Geneva last month, Australia told Sri Lanka to ''reduce and eliminate all cases of abuse, torture or mistreatment by police and security forces … [and] all cases of abductions and disappearances''.

Sri Lanka: UN review reveals state war crimes, international complicity

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 | Greenleft
A United Nations review into its handling of the Sri Lankan government's war against Tamils in 2009 has revealed the UN deliberately ignored Sri Lanka's huge-scale human rights violations.
Up to 50,000 Tamils were killed by Sri Lankan military forces in the final stage of the conflict between the Sri Lankan government and armed Tamil independence groups, the most prominent of which was the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
After the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, about 300,000 Tamils were forced into prison camps, where mass executions, torture and rape allegedly took place.
Australian Tamil Congress spokesperson Sam Pari said at on November 23: “UN senior officials not only abandoned the Vanni region as the war escalated, but purposely avoided revealing casualty figures collated by its own staff, while knowing the death toll had entered the tens of thousands.
“Furthermore, the UN was found to have failed to mention that the majority of killings that took place were inside government-declared 'safe zones', and chose to hide the fact that the Sri Lankan regime was responsible for these civilian deaths, instead casting blame solely on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ...
“This recent internal review substantiates what the Tamil people had desperately tried to alert the world: the UN’s deliberate silence protected the Sri Lankan state from international criticism and allowed it to strategically conduct a genocidal campaign under the guise of a 'war on terror'.”
The UN released a heavily redacted version of a report on its conduct during the Sri Lankan conflict after a leaked version was released on November 13. However, exposed some of the censored material, showing efforts by top UN officials to provide cover for the Sri Lankan government. said on November 14 that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon argued against an independent investigation into Sri Lankan government crimes, despite being advised Sri Lanka's own inquiry was “unlikely to seriously address past violations”. also said former UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes “was against referring to war crimes, after having buried a report of over 2000 civilian deaths”.
A leaked version of the executive summary of the report, removed from the final version but published by, said: “Decision-making across the UN was dominated by a culture of trade-offs ― from the ground to UN headquarters (UNHQ) ...
“There was a sustained and institutionalized reluctance among UNCT [United Nations Country Team] actors to stand up for the rights of the people they were mandated to assist. In Colombo, many senior UN staff simply did not perceive the prevention of killing of civilians as their responsibility ...
“The UN’s failure to adequately counter the Government’s under-estimation of population numbers in the Wanni, the failure to adequately confront the Government on its obstructions to humanitarian assistance, the unwillingness of the UN in UNHQ and Colombo to address Government responsibility for attacks that were killing civilians, and the tone and content of UN communications with the Government and Member States on these issues, contributed to the unfolding of dramatic events.”
The UN's actions reflect the disregard for the plight of Tamils by many governments across the world. Such supporters have provided cover for Sri Lanka's crimes by couching its actions in terms of “anti-terrorism” and ignoring the civilian casualties and subsequent abuses.
Sri Lanka is seen as a strategic ally for the West, given its geographic location near China and India.
The US government has also worked to stop a war-crimes lawsuit against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa brought by Tamil activists, saying Rajapaksa has legal immunity from such charges, Tamilnet said on November 9.
The Sri Lankan government had tried to deflect criticism with its “Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission” (LLRC), whose government-appointed officials largely exonerated the government. Sri Lanka's Sunday Leader said on November 18 the LLRC's modest recommendations were slow in being implemented by the government, despite the report being completed a year ago.
The Sri Lankan government's ongoing abuses against Tamils are part of a long history of oppression.
The drive by Tamils to create an independent state, Tamil Eelam, in the island's north-east was caused by the racist and discriminatory practices of the Sri Lankan government, dating back to the country's colonisation by Britain.
The British used racism to turn the majority Sinhalese population against Tamils, dividing the struggle against colonial rule. Racism was amplified after the British handed over power to Sinhalese elites in 1948. Most Tamils were also excluded from many aspects of society ― Sinhalese was made the official language, keeping Tamils out of government jobs.
After decades of non-violent political struggle, rising mistreatment of Tamils ― including several massacres ― led to demands for independence and some Tamils formed armed groups. Some of these groups ― including the LTTE ― also engaged in violence against civilians.
Nonetheless, the LTTE became regarded by many Tamils as a protector against Sinhalese violence. It set up a de facto state in predominantly Tamil areas under its control until the Sri Lankan Army offensive that defeated it.
Having destroyed the LTTE, the Sri Lankan government is working to make Tamil independence unviable.
Many Tamils have been prevented from returning to their homes, with the government settling thousands of Sinhalese in formerly Tamil areas. Critics say this is a form of ethnic cleansing. Tamilnet provided an example on November 11, reporting government plans to send 25,000 Sinhalese to live in the Batticaloa district.
Meanwhile, 51,000 Tamils were “denied access to their fertile lands and houses in Valikaamam, Jaffna”, Tamilnet said.
Tamilnet also reported on November 10 the building of a Buddhist temple for Sinhalese settlers on an ancient site at Kuchchave’li, significant to the Tamils who were expelled from there. Many other similar cases have been reported throughout the country.
The Sri Lankan government is also notorious for its harassment of opponents from all ethnic groups, including widespread abduction and torture of activists.
Despite this, the Australian government has sent back more than 650 Tamil asylum seekers since August, said on November 28.

Indians abroad should advise and encourage Sri Lankan Tamils to campaign within the democratic structure of Sri Lanka - Dr. Swamy

Wed, 2012-12-05 17:43 — editor
By K.T.Rajasingham
New Delhi, 05 December, (
Dr. Subramanian Swamy

Dr. Subramanian Swamy, President of the Janata Party and the former Law Minister of India has urged Indians abroad to advise and encourage Sri Lankan Tamils to ‘campaign within the democratic structure of Sri Lanka’.
This was the first time ever the support and cooperation of Indians abroad were sought and was categorically pointed out to Sri Lankan Tamils, “not run sterile and bogus genocide campaigns abroad”.
He further pointed out, ‘the UN Reports also detail about the LTTE brutality and using of child soldiers.’
Dr. Subramanian Swamy emphasized in a statement released to the press, “This requires UNHCR concern equally. The rump LTTE is active abroad if not in Sri Lanka. “
While pointing out India has continued to maintain the ban on the LTTE, he described the LTTE supporters within Tamil Nadu, “LTTE financial orphans” and alleged that they are active in criminal activities in Tamil Nadu.
Dr. Subramanian Swamy alleged when referring about “LTTE financial orphans” that “Some now are being encouraged by ISI of Pakistan to team up with ULFA, Maoists and LeT.
“ So no patriotic Indian should take notice of such one-sided campaigns”, he cautioned in the press release.
He stressed the importance of “India has to work with Sri Lanka to get constitutional safeguards for the Sri Lankan Tamils”.
He also reminded, “We in India regard both Sinhalese and Tamils as descendents of Indians. Nor can we forget the perfidy of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.”
- Asian Tribune -

EU raises concerns over Sri Lanka

Xinhua | 2012-12-5 16:14:23 | Global Times
By Agencies

The European Union (EU) office in Sri Lanka on Wednesday raised concerns over a number of recent incidents regarding the rule of law and individual freedoms in the country.

In a statement,the EU made reference to moves to impeach the chief justice in the country, an assault on minority Tamil students in the northern Jaffna town and a prison riot where several inmates were killed.
"The European Union looks to the Sri Lankan authorities to ensure that the independence of the judiciary is protected; that investigations into the large number of deaths at the Welikada prison are speedy and impartial; and that all citizens, including students, journalists and opposition politicians, are able to exercise their fundamental rights without impediment," the statement said.
The EU noted that several other domestic and international actors have also expressed concerns, including the Commonwealth secretary general, the UN special rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Sri Lankan Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake appeared before a parliament select committee on Tuesday to respond to charges raised against her by the government.

The chief justice rejected the charges but still faces an impeachment where she is ultimately likely to be removed.