Torture in Sri Lanka – UKBA ‘not bovered’

Torture in Sri Lanka – Am I bovered?

UK Border Agency made no record of anti-torture inspectors on Sri Lanka charter flight, Freedom of Information request reveals

It’s Sri Lanka charter flight week again. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) press team are coming out with their tried and tested quotes to deflect any criticism of their cynical operation.

Guess what the UKBA said in response to a new report by Human Rights Watch about the extensive sexual violence perpetrated by the Sri Lankan military?

We constantly review the situation in Sri Lanka and the current position, supported by the European Court of Human Rights, is that not every Tamil asylum seeker requires our protection.”

Heard that one before?

Something the UKBA press team aren’t likely to tell us this week is what happened when the Council of Europe’s Anti-torture committee inspected their recent Sri Lanka charter flight in October 2012.

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (abbreviated to CPT) issued a press release after that charter flight announcing they had:

Examined for the first time the treatment of foreign nationals during an operation of deportation by air. The monitoring took place in the context of an ad hoc visit to the United Kingdom from 22 to 24 October and involved the presence of the CPT’s delegation on a charter flight between London and Colombo (Sri Lanka).

The delegation also held consultations with Colin PUNTON, Returns Director at the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA), as well as with senior representatives of Reliance, the private security company contracted by the UKBA to provide escorts for deportations by air.

The visit was carried out by two members of the CPT, Jean-Pierre RESTELLINI (Swiss), Acting 2nd Vice-President of the CPT, Head of delegation, and Jari PIRJOLA (Finnish), who were supported by Fabrice KELLENS, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Committee.”

I submitted a Freedom of Information request asking for copies of minutes or other notes from meetings between the UK Border Agency and the Council of Europe’s CPT during these dates.

Their response was: “We have carried out a thorough search and we have established that the UK Border Agency does not hold the information which you have requested”.

In other words, no one in the UK Border Agency bothered to record what was said between their Director responsible for a highly controversial charter flight programme and the Council of Europe’s anti-torture inspectors. Was nothing jotted down even by some members of UKBA staff who sat with them on the long-haul flight all the way to Colombo?

This shows the staggering sense of indifference and impunity that senior civil servants at the UKBA hold when it comes to sending people back on mass to a well-documented risk of torture. Any reassurances issued by their press team this week suggesting the UKBA care at all about the situation in Sri Lanka are completely disingenuous.

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