Another mass expulsion to Sri Lanka

More UK Complicity in Torture

[Phil Miller, Stop Deportations Blog, 3/12/12]

The UK Border Agency have planned another deportation charter flight to Sri Lanka for this Thursday 6th December 2012 at 1600hrs.

Visit Sri Lanka - poster

Here is a possible advert for their flights. Click to view full image

Despite public controversy, these mass expulsions to Sri Lanka are actually becoming more frequent. There are now charter deportation flights from London to Colombo departing on an almost monthly basis. Since mid-2012, the Australian government have followed Britain’s example, with planes full of ‘failed’ Tamil asylum seekers taking off from Christmas Island. Media reports [1|2] claim that dozens of refugees deported from Australia in November where arrested on arrival in Sri Lanka.

Last month I asked Yasmin Sooka, who is a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, if she was concerned by the deportation of Tamils to Sri Lanka from Commonwealth States such as Britain and Australia. She responded, in a personal capacity, that these governments are “sending people back to be killed and tortured” [3].

Since December 2011, activists in London have attempted three times to physically block the buses which transfer Tamils from the detention centre to the deportation flight. Their actions have caused delays and given Barristers more time to get removal directions cancelled. Although these protests have resulted in 10 arrests, the Crown Prosecution Service have repeatedly dropped all charges, days before activists were due in court [4]. Is this to avoid further disclosure of the Government’s complicity in torture?

The British Ministry of Defence are still refusing to answer a Freedom of Information request [5] about whether Liam Fox’s fixer, Adam Werritty, visited Sri Lanka shortly before the deportation charter flights began in June 2011. A complaint to the Information Commissioner has been made.

The UK Border Agency Country of Origin Information Service (COIS) have admitted in response to a Freedom of Information request [6] that they do not know the identity of a source they cited in their July 2011 Country of Origin report on Sri Lanka. This ‘Colombo based human rights worker’ claimed it “was well known that many persons who were held in IDP camps at the end of the conflict scarred themselves so that on release they could make allegations that the Sri Lankan government had tortured them”.

And so the complicity and cover-up continues…


[1] 32 Australian deportees arrested at BIA,

[2] Deported asylum seekers jailed,

[3] Towards truth, justice and a political solution in Sri Lanka: Session 2, response at 56:35.

[4] For example, see Bindman’s press release: Case discontinued in protest against Tamil deportation.

[5] Dr. Fox’s staff in Sri Lanka June 2011

[6] Correspondence between UKBA COI Service and British HC in Colombo

How many more will be tortured before you stop deportation?

British Government ignores evidence and sends Tamil refugees back to face torture

February 28th 2012

[From NCADC blog]

  • “Enough is enough, it is clearly not safe for Tamils to be returned”

Keith Best, Chief Executive of Freedom from Torture

International human rights organisations have condemned the UK government’s plan to deport up to 100 Tamil refugees to Sri Lanka on Tuesday.
Last year, in June and then again in September, there were reports of returned refugees being tortured. British MP Siobhain McDonagh accused the government of “painting targets on the backs” of Tamil deportees, following revelations that the Border Agency was passing confidential documents to the Sri Lankan authorities.
These fears have been raised again by Freedom From Torture and Human Rights Watch. Both organisations have called for a cessation of returns to Sri Lanka. You can add your voice to this campaign.
NCADC and the Stop Deportation Network are in touch with many of the deportees in detention centres. All have said that they are too frightened of reprisals to go public with their names, but many have asked people to support the campaign to stop the flight.
You can help. Please take a few minutes to contact the Home Secretary and join the protest against this flight. See below for details.
Research by Human Rights Watch has found that some returned Tamil asylum seekers from the United Kingdom have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and torture upon their return to Sri Lanka.
Freedom from Torture has called on the government to stop all forcible removals of Tamils to Sri Lanka after the damning evidence from Human Rights Watch.
Keith Best, Chief Executive of Freedom from Torture said:
“With 100 people due to be removed to Sri Lanka on a charter flight this Tuesday 28th February, it is imperative that government ministers move as swiftly as possible to suspend removals and prevent these individuals being returned to a demonstrable risk of torture on return. This flight must not leave British soil. This new evidence is the ‘smoking gun’ that proves that Tamils forcibly removed from the UK have come to serious harm on return. Some of the cases highlighted were refused asylum in the UK: the UK asylum system has clearly failed these people and decision-making by the UK Border Agency in individual cases cannot be relied upon to prevent future cases of torture on return.”
Human Rights Watch has documented eight recent cases in which people forcibly returned to Sri Lanka have been subjected to torture, including refused asylum seekers removed from the UK on charter flights in 2011. Medical evidence supporting their claims has been obtained.
The government of Sri Lanka has come under increasing international pressure to implement recommendations submitted by a presidentially appointed war commission. The UN News Service, IRIN, reports that international human rights groups have widely criticized the lack of accountability in the report by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), and have called for an independent inquiry, denouncing the report for ignoring alleged human rights abuses.
This call for an independent inquiry is echoed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Irish President Mary Robinson in the Guardian this week, citing continuing reports of human rights violations by the authorities.
The Sri Lankan government has reacted angrily to the international calls for an independent war crimes inquiry. Today the authorities have organised demonstrations, with reports from Colombo, where the US embassy was attacked, that some demonstrators had been coerced into attending by masked motorcycle-riders.
At the time of the last mass deportation to Sri Lanka, Channel 4 News reported that an MP has accused the UK Government of “painting targets on the backs” of Tamil civilians being deported from the UK, and says at least two have attempted suicide rather than face the return to Sri Lanka. Following the broadcast of the Channel 4 documentary Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields,  MP Siobhain McDonagh has told the Commons the British Government is complicit in the torture of Tamil civilians as it plans to deport refugees whose confidential asylum files have been shared.
What you can do to help:
Please contact Theresa May, the Home Secretary.
Ask her to intervene to stop this charter flight. Given the current volatile situation in Sri Lanka, the ongoing human rights abuses which have been reported by credible sources, and the evidence of imprisonment and possibly torture of Tamils forcibly returned on previous flights, Home Secretary should intervene to stop this flight. Detainees should be released from Immigration Removal Centres.
You can use the this model letter, or use your own words, but we must act fast.
Rt. Hon Theresa May, MP
Secretary of State for the Home Office,
2 Marsham St
London SW1 4DF
Fax: 020 7035 4745