UN dismayed by Sri Lanka deportations of asylum seekers

UN dismayed by Sri Lanka deportations of asylum seekers

The UN refugee agency has expressed dismay over Sri Lanka's action to deport asylum seekers from Pakistan. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called on Sri Lanka to refrain from such actions and abide by its obligations under international law.

"While we appreciate the government's speedy action to release 71 Pakistani and 2 Iranian refugees and asylum-seekers in early September, not everyone in detention has been released and we are dismayed that the arrests, detention and deportations have resumed," said UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch. The UNHCR and the local civil society organisations have been deploring deportation of Pakistani asylum seekers claiming that they were under serious threat if returned to Pakistan.

The UNHCR said that Sri Lanka started its special operation on June 9 this year. And while it came to a halt on August 15, it resumed on September 3. Between September 3 and 11, 62 Pakistani and 3 Afghan asylum-seekers were arrested and detained; 40 were subsequently deported, UNHCR said.

Since early June, the authorities have arrested and detained a total of 328 refugees and asylum-seekers, and deported 183 of them to Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Court of Appeal on September 3 ruled that Sri Lanka was within their right to deport the asylum seekers after the government had argued that the country had among other reasons national security concerns. "We believe there are still 102 people of concern to UNHCR in detention, including 38 Pakistanis and 64 Afghans," Baloch said at a press briefing in Geneva yesterday.

He said that when the UNHCR met with Sri Lanka earlier this month, assurances were given for the immediate release of all asylum-seekers and refugees arrested and detained since June.

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