Border Agency “disappointed” it cannot deport Tamils for torture today
The UK Border Agency’s charter flight to Sri Lanka scheduled for today hangs in the balance this morning after a high court judge ruled that all failed Tamil asylum-seekers cannot be deported before the country guidance case has been concluded.
This ruling has been widely reported in the national news [1|2] , however it is unclear at this stage if everyone will be taken off the flight. Will some people, for example visa overstayers who have not claimed asylum, still be removed on the flight?
It is also unclear whether failed asylum-seekers will be taken off the flight automatically, or if the onus is on them and their lawyers to put in a JR based on these new grounds and also email the court. Detainee support groups are trying to update everyone who was booked on the flight, but this is made difficult because people were put in the isolation wings at Colnbrook and Harmondsworth ahead of the charter flight (as per usual…).
One anti-deportation campaigner expressed his concerns that more urgent casework support is needed:
“I’m just a bit worried about whether all those booked to fly out today will hear about this and be able to get their lawyers to file an injunction by the time of the flight. Unless they have good lawyers that are on the case they may not get injunctions filed for them and therefore will be on the flight regardless.”
“We were overjoyed at the [Channel 4] news. However, we tried to contact people inside but the Tamils we spoke to said when they told others they didn’t believe them and took it as rumours.”
“The problem is, it is a big risk for Tamils to apply for asylum as if it fails and they still get sent back then they will be in trouble with the Sri Lankan Government who see asylum-seekers as traitors.”
“The problem is trying to prove to those inside that even if they only apply for asylum now, it may be enough to get them taken of the flight. Many may still not be willing to risk it. In terms of those who already claimed asylum and had it rejected, I pray that their lawyers apply for an injunction by 4pm so this new ruling will take them off the flight.”
Still, this is a massive breakthrough in terms of stopping deportations to Sri Lanka, particularly on charter flights. The Judge rebuked the Border Agency for scheduling another flight before the country guidance case had finished. According to Channel 4, the Border Agency conceded in a pre-flight letter that several Tamils returned to Sri Lanka had been tortured, but they amounted to “only a fraction” of all deportees. The Border Agency is “disappointed” by the Judge’s decision which prevents them sending failed Tamil asylum-seekers to a situation which, by their own admission, puts them at risk of torture.
The UKBA press team is desperately trying to save face, claiming this ruling does “not represent a blanket ban on returns to Sri Lanka”. So, will they still send a virtually empty flight to Colombo today, just to prove a point? They may also try to postpone it until the media storm has died down. The charter flight should of course be cancelled immediately.
Looking ahead, we need a public inquiry into which civil servants, politicians and businesses have blood on their hands as a result of this 21-month terror campaign against Tamil refugees in the UK.