2012: A Year (or more!) of Resistance Against Deportations to Sri Lanka
For a short summary of resistance against deportations to Sri Lanka since June 2011, see here. For a more detailed breakdown, including photos and videos, please scroll down.
6th December 2012 – UKBA mass deportation to Sri Lanka
On 6th December 2012, the UK Border Agency went ahead with another mass deportation to Sri Lanka. Unconfirmed reports say that 29 people were removed in total, and that 25 of them were Tamil.
At 0930 on the morning of the flight, campaigners monitored the arrival of 3 coaches to the Colnbrook and Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centres by Heathrow. Two of the coaches were from the notorious deportation profiteer WH Tours and the third coach was unmarked. Reliance vans also escorted the coaches. All these vehicles are believed to be connected with the deportation to Sri Lanka that afternoon.
Media coverage of this deportation was extremely limitted. However, Open Democracy and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka reposted the news article from this blog. Freedom from Torture published a press release highlighting how the UN Committee Against Torture and two Parliamentary Select Committees have recently criticed the British Government’s deportation program to Sri Lanka.
Deportation Charter Flight to Sri Lanka | 23rd October 2012 | Summary of campaign work
indymedia | 23.10.2012
Solidarity activists protest UK deportations of Eezham Tamil asylum seekers
TamilNet | 24.10.2012
Condemning deportations of Eezham Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka by the UKBA, solidarity activists staged a demonstration near Heathrow, London today. The protest called for by an anti-deportation group ‘No Borders which saw the participation of mostly non-Tamil activists, also had participation of activists from Tamil Solidarity.
No Borders activist interviewed on satellite TV channel, Global Tamil Vision
Global Tamil Vision | 25.10.2012
Flyer produced for 23rd October charter, distributed at TUC demo on 20th October.
On Tuesday 23rd October, the British government will try to deport up to 60 people to Sri Lanka, where many of them are at serious risk of arrest, torture and even death.
Despite overwhelming evidence of torture, mass deportations to Sri Lanka were resumed last year at the height of the genocide against the Tamils in the country.
Since then, three attempts to deport people to Sri Lanka have been disrupted by a combination of legal action and direct action at the detention centres. We have physically stopped the coaches from leaving while lawyers won final-hour injunctions in court. During the last charter on 19 September, a person locked themselves to the coach surrounded by supporters, holding it up for hours while 35 people gained injunctions stopping their deportations throughout the afternoon.
This video shows the protest against the deportation of Tamils from Britain to Sri Lanka on 19th September 2012
Together we have the power to stop deportations. If we keep up the pressure we can stop the charters to Sri Lanka. Join us on Tuesday to show solidarity to the deportees and fight the deportation machine.
– Britian and the genocide in Sri Lanka
* The genocide against the Tamils in Sri Lanka claimed the lives of over 100, 000 people in 2009 alone and continues to this day.
* Many Tamil returnees to Sri Lanka have been detained and tortured to silence potential dissenters and to scare witnesses to war crimes
* While the military occupation of Tamil lands is accelerating into a mass land grab, deportations from the UK are serving to mask this deadly situation.
* There is clear evidence that the resumption of charter flights to Sri Lanka were arranged in a deal by Liam Fox, Adam Werritty and other fixers close to the Tory government.
* The driving force behind the deportation of Tamil people are investment opportunities such as oil and gas exploration in the Tamil seas and the economic potential of the land. See for example interests pursued by greedy UK politicians and businesses like the Sri Lankan Development Trust set up by disgraced former Defence Minister Liam Fox.
* Tamils who have fled the genocide in Sri Lanka have only found themselves terrorised again by the British government is working hand in glove with commercial interests.
Videos about mass deportation of Tamils from Britain on 31st May 2012
Report about mass deportation of Tamils from Britain on 15th December 2011
Anger as mass deportation of up to 75 Tamil refugees from UK to Sri Lanka went ahead yesterday (15/12/2011). The community and supporters lost two-week long battle to block the flight, despite resisting on all fronts: in the courts, in the streets and finally outside the detention centres.
Campaigners were tipped off about this mass deportation charter flight two weeks in advance, when Tamils in detention centres were given ‘removal directions’ set for December 15th from an unknown airport. Several of these Tamil refugees had already been tortured once by the Sri Lankan government and feared it would happen to them again if deported.
The UK Border Agency’s plan was immediately condemned by human rights groups: Freedom From Torture hosted a panel discussion and published a new report with evidence of ongoing torture in Sri Lanka that documented cases where Tamils had been deported from the UK and then tortured on arrival by Sri Lankan authorities. Campaigners from Act Now went to the Home Secretary’s constituency to hand out information in the street about the dangers faced by Tamils in Sri Lanka. Legal challenges went on in the courts, saving some Tamils from the flight even on the final day. However, the flight is believed to have taken off with the majority of people onboard.
A last ditch attempt by activists to block the deportation coaches from getting to the airport was forcibly cleared by police and 5 protesters were arrested for obstructing the highway. Activists from Stop Deportation Network and No Borders had blocked off the exit to Europe’s largest migrant prison in dramatic style – just as the first coach was trying to drive out. Their simultaneous shut down of two ‘immigration removal centres’ lasted for several hours, before para-military police units were mobilised to escort coaches out through a disused road. In desperation one activist reportedly scrambled under the vehicle in a failed attempt to stop the last coach. Several of the remaining protesters looked visibly distressed once it became apparent police had out manoeuvred them. One of the coaches hired by the Home Office to deport this group of Tamil refugees was from a travel company named ‘Just Go’.
The operator of the flight on 15th December was ArkeFly which is a Dutch charter airline but is owned by the German TUI Group.
Background to mass deportation charter flight to Sri Lanka 15th December 2011
Given the Sri Lankan government’s reputation for arbitrary detention and torture of deportees, mass deportation raises specific fears for many of the people booked on the flight.
This 5 minute video from Channel 4 outlines some of these concerns:
Freedom from Torture has published a new report documenting evidence of torture ongoing in Sri Lanka after the end of the civil war.
“Key findings include:
- Torture perpetrated by state actors within both the military and police has continued in Sri Lanka after the conflict ended in May 2009 and is still occurring in 2011
- Those at particular risk of torture include Tamils who have an actual or perceived association with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
- A variety of different types of torture have been perpetrated in a significant number of locations around Sri Lanka during the post-conflict period
- A wide range of different forms of torture have been used, often in combination, to inflict severe suffering on victims of torture with devastating psychological and physical consequences
- Many Sri Lankan torture victims are left with visible scarring attributable to both blunt force trauma and burns which suggests impunity for perpetrators of torture in Sri Lanka”
Freedom from Torture also recording a panel discussion outlining why deportations to Sri Lanka are unsafe.
Free Movement blog has repeatedly slammed the UK Border Agency’s Country of Origin Information for Sri Lanka.
(For background on the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka, watch Channel 4’s documentary “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields“.)
The UK Border Agency last carried out a mass deportation to Sri Lanka on 28th September 2011. 42 men and 8 women were deported from Luton Airport, with 9 others winning last minute reprieves.
The first mass deportation from UK to Sri Lanka this year was on 16th June 2011. Channel 4 News closely followed the story.