Myth number 4: The IOM monitors the safety of Tamils returned to Sri Lanka

IOM Myths Busted

  • Myth number 4: The IOM monitors the safety of Tamils returned to Sri Lanka

False. The IOM briefly came to public attention in the controversy over Britain’s second charter flight to Sri Lanka since the mass deportations between London and Colombo resumed in June 2011. The Guardian reported on the morning of the September 28th deportation charter flight to Sri Lanka that:

“As lawyers for some of the individuals lodged last-minute appeals, the Home Office claimed that arrangements to monitor the welfare of the deportees had been sub-contracted to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), an inter-governmental body. “They do it on our behalf,” a spokesman said.

When the IOM denied this, the Border Agency conceded that the only measure being taken to ensure the safety of Tamils who are forcibly removed from the UK to Sri Lanka is to give them the telephone number and address of the British high commission in Colombo.”

However, the relationship between the British High Commission and the IOM remains unclear. Before the next mass deportation charter flight took place on 15th December 2011, the Deputy High Commissioner, Robbie Bulloch, was photographed meeting IOM Cheif of Mission Richard Danziger in Jaffna. Danziger frequently crops up working alongside dictatorial regimes. As head of the IOM’s Counter-Trafficking Division, he unveiled IOM projects in Belarus and in Egypt. The later was at IOM event in Cairo under the patronage of Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, then First Lady of Egypt.

Deputy High Commissioner Robbie Bulloch met Richard Danziger, Chief of Mission of the IOM in Sri Lanka, on 4th December 2011. The topic of discussion is unknown. [FCO Flickr]

Officially, the IOM was only ever required to monitor people returning from Britain to Sri Lanka who had accepted their ‘voluntary’ re-intergration package (i.e. prior to IOM handing over this role to Refugee Action in 2010), and for just one-year after arrival. As Frances Weber noted, the results of even this limited sample were alarming:

“A 2009 study of forty-eight voluntary returnees to Sri Lanka by the Migration Development Research Centre (DRC) found that nearly all twenty-nine Tamils in the sample had suffered racial harassment from police or other officials since their return, and four had suffered serious human rights abuses. Forty-four of the forty-eight in the sample had started businesses, but twenty had closed and another twenty provided a living at or below subsistence level. Only four generated a profit above subsistence level”


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