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Tamils face return in UN review

8 April 2010 02:35 pm - 16     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Hundreds of Tamil asylum-seekers could be sent home if new UN guidelines reflect Sri Lanka's improved humanitarian situation. Sri Lanka's ambassador to Australia, Senaka Walgampaya, said Colombo expected the UN High Commissioner for Refugees guidelines, currently under review, will soften its assessment of the country.

The review prompted the co-ordinator of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, David Manne, to warn against making "dangerously premature" judgments about returning Tamils.

"Governments like Australia have sometimes seized on revised guidelines to prematurely return people to the same dangers they faced in the past," Mr Manne said.

The warning came as an analysis of unauthorised boat arrivals to Australia revealed Sri Lankans accounted for just 20 per cent of the total number of asylum-seekers.

The Department of Immigration figures undermine the Rudd government's claim that the fallout from Sri Lanka's civil war, which ended last May following the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, was one of the main factors driving refugees to Australia.

According to the numbers, a total of 4529 asylum-seekers arrived in Australia by boat in 2009 and 2010. Of those, 945 -- or 20 per cent -- said they were Sri Lankan. By contrast, 2506 asylum-seekers -- or 55 per cent of the total -- hailed from Afghanistan.

Mr Walgampaya said Sri Lanka expected the UNHCR guidelines, which effectively presume Tamils in the country's north should be considered refugees, to be changed. "I believe they're trying to do it now, yes," he said.

"There is no reason for anybody to seek refuge in Australia."

Mr Walgampaya's confidence was backed by Ramesh Jayasingha, the permanent secretary to Sri Lanka's Minister for Foreign Affairs. "There is a very steady and sustained return to normalcy in Sri Lanka and that is something obviously the international community would be cognisant of," he said.

But Mr Jayasingha warned a tougher refugee assessment would not necessarily have any bearing on the number of Sri Lankans fleeing by boat.

He said the asylum-seeker pipeline to Australia was driven by organised criminals, some of whom were "linked" to terrorism.

UNHCR regional head Richard Towle today confirmed a revision was under way, although he would not say when it would be issued. "The revisions will reflect our assessments of the country conditions in Sri Lanka" Mr Towle said, adding that revising country assessment was "standard practice".

UNHCR country assessments are one of the principal tools used by the Immigration Department to make refugee determinations.

In March, Mr Towle said there had been "positive changes" in the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka, although there remained a "long way to go".

Mr Manne agreed it was likely the UNHCR would issue a more "nuanced" assessment of northern Sri Lanka. "Given recent indications by the UNHCR that would appear the likely trajectory."

The Immigration Department figures also reveal a strikingly high success rate for Afghan asylum-seekers, with not a single Afghan having being deported following an unsuccessful claim.

By contrast, a total of 80 Sri Lankans have been removed since the beginning of 2009.

The stream of asylum-seekers has strained facilities on Christmas Island. Yesterday there were 2055 people in the detention centre, which has a capacity of 2040. A further 125 asylum-seekers intercepted by authorities were en route to the island. (The Australian)
 

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  Comments - 16

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  • Thursday, 08 April 2010 02:42 PM

    Please dont do that as they will face imprisonment and severe persecution.

    Thursday, 08 April 2010 02:54 PM

    Australia, please don't send them here, keep them there.

    Thursday, 08 April 2010 03:00 PM

    They Are Most welcome

    Thursday, 08 April 2010 03:15 PM

    bad news, we don't want those who told lies to shame sri lanka either.

    Thursday, 08 April 2010 04:15 PM

    Decades of lies should end somewhere.

    Skilled Migration -> Skills + Education + Experience + ... -> Hard work
    Refugee Migration -> Ability to lie and deceive -> Dole

    Thursday, 08 April 2010 05:25 PM

    Keep them! Who needs such traitors in Sri Lanka?

    Thursday, 08 April 2010 05:37 PM

    We will happily come back, if our homes are given back to us ... Our homes are still either military-camps or in the nothern HSZ.

    Thursday, 08 April 2010 05:38 PM

    If these 'refugees' really want to leave Sri Lanka, then let them leave. Let them stay in that country. Don't try to forcefully bring them back, through the UN or otherwise.

    Thursday, 08 April 2010 05:58 PM

    Should find out another place for them, such as the UK, Canada, or the US.

    Thursday, 08 April 2010 06:07 PM

    Good move ...

    Thursday, 08 April 2010 07:57 PM

    There is no credibility in the Sri Lankan ambassador's comments. Like a wolf saying that sheep will be safe in his care! Most Australians don't even know where Sri Lanka is.

    Thursday, 08 April 2010 08:07 PM

    Peaceful Sri Lankans don't wont these opportunistic 'queue-jumpers' back. Keep these terrorism supporting thugs in Australia!

    Thursday, 08 April 2010 08:15 PM

    Please keep them ... thanks a lot.

    Thursday, 08 April 2010 09:21 PM

    What if the UN's report is negative? Will Sri Lanka accept the UN's verdict?

    Thursday, 08 April 2010 10:07 PM

    Amazing that there are some who think that life is dangerous for Tamils, in Sri Lanka! I have seen Tamils living peacefully, in the deep-South like Ambalangoda, apart from other districts.

    Thursday, 08 April 2010 10:16 PM

    Hope Australia will keep these 'parasites.'


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