- Posted July 6, 2014 by
London, United Kingdom
Arrested Pakistanis and Afghans to be sent back
Immigration chief says it is not a deportation; crackdown continues
Sri Lanka has decided to send all arrested Afghan and Pakistani asylum seekers and their families back to their countries as early as possible, a senior official said yesterday. Immigrations Controller Chulananda Perera said the asylum seekers would be sent back and not deported, whereby there would be no record of deportation on their travel documents.
“They have come with return tickets and we have discussed the issue with airlines,” he said as Immigration officials by Friday rounded up 45 Afghans, most of them living in Panadura and five more Pakistanis. At present 144 Pakistani asylum seekers are being held in custody.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Colombo is still verifying whether the arrested Afghans were registered asylum seekers. All five Pakistanis arrested on Friday were UNHCR-registered asylum seekers. Fearing more arrests, a large number of Afghans camped outside the UNHCR’s Colombo office, seeking protection. However they were repeatedly told that the UNHCR was unable to assist them.
The crackdown on the asylum seekers started last month. Those arrested are detained in the Boosa camp. Three Pakistanis arrested earlier were released to be resettled in a third country. However when the UNHCR objected, the roundup was suspended, only to be resumed on Monday.
According to officials, there are 1,433 Pakistani and 75 Afghan asylum seekers in Sri Lanka. Some 185 Pakistanis and two Afghans who were given refugee status here are to be relocated in a third country. In the aftermath of the flow of asylum seekers, the Government has withdrawn on arrival visa facilities for Pakistanis.
However, this facility is still available for Afghans.
A spokesman for the UNHCR office in Colombo said they had not been informed of the specific charges against the arrested asylum seekers and had sought clarification from the External Affairs Ministry. An EAM official said he was unable to give any details, except to say the ministry was ‘working on the
Babar Baloch, the UNHCR’s Geneva-based spokesperson for Asia and the Americas, said via his twitter handle that they were gravely concerned about the second round of arrests in Sri Lanka and called for the immediate release of asylum seekers. Meanwhile the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been given access to the Pakistani Asylum seekers detained this week. Families of some of the detainees were also able to meet them.
In a related development, the EAM is to next week call a meeting of all stakeholders to discuss the crisis.