UK to deport more Tamils

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Britain is to deport more Sri Lankan Tamils on Thursday, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch said that the United Kingdom should immediately suspend deportations of ethnic Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka and review its policies in assessing these claims.

Investigations by Human Rights Watch have found that some failed Tamil asylum seekers from the United Kingdom and other countries have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and torture upon their return to Sri Lanka.

In addition to eight cases in which deportees faced torture on return reported in February, Human Rights Watch has since documented a further five cases in which Tamil failed asylum seekers were subjected to torture by government security forces on return from various countries, most recently in February 2012.

“The British government’s asylum procedure is failing to identify Tamils at risk of torture upon return to Sri Lanka despite growing evidence that torture of Tamil activists deported from abroad occurs,” said David Mepham, UK director at Human Rights Watch. “Until the government can fairly and thoroughly assess asylum claims based on up-to-date human rights information on Sri Lanka, it should suspend returns.”

A Tamil woman asylum seeker who returned to Sri Lanka in May 2009 said she was detained, questioned and subjected to torture including sexual abuse by security agents, and imprisoned for five months at an army camp, Human Rights Watch claimed.

Two Tamil men returned described torture by Sri Lankan authorities upon arrival in Colombo. One said he was severely beaten and scalded with cigarettes and heated iron rods. The second told Human Rights Watch about his torture at the headquarters of the military Criminal Investigations Department after he was detained at the airport:

The UK Border Agency’s Operational Guidance Note on Sri Lanka, updated in April 2012, acknowledges reports of torture as a widespread practice in Sri Lanka, but omits guidance on the risk of torture based on participation in demonstrations and other political activity abroad.  Human Rights Watch’s investigations indicate that their torturers interrogated deportees about their political activities abroad. (Colombo Gazette)