London High Court suspends deportation of Tamils

The high court in London has blocked the deportation of a group of failed Tamil asylum seekers who were due to be sent back to Sri Lanka today (Thursday) despite torture concerns, British media reports said.

The high court decision was described as “unprecedented and precedent-setting” by a legal source.

The group of failed Tamil asylum seekers was due to be sent back to Sri Lanka, on a flight leaving the UK at around 4pm this evening, but now they will be able to remain in the UK while their situations are considered further, Channel 4 reported.

The landmark decision has wider implications because it also applies to all other failed Tamil asylum seekers, and those in detention, meaning none can be removed at present. New claimants will still have to make claims in the normal way.

The failed Tamil asylum seekers, represented by Renaissance Chambers, were due to be deported on Thursday despite the government’s admission earlier this month that at least 15 Tamils previously sent back to Sri Lanka were tortured.

A UK Border Agency spokesman told Channel 4 News: “We are disappointed with the outcome of this hearing and we will appeal. The ruling does not represent a blanket ban on returns to Sri Lanka.”

The judge, Justice Wilkie, described the situation as “virtually unique”, due to the timing of the case.

At the same time as this particular case was under consideration, an immigration tribunal has been hearing evidence on the wider question of the situation in Sri Lanka. Its deliberations will be used to update Home Office guidance on the risks of returning people to the country.

Justice Wilkie said that because the guidance on Sri Lanka was being considered “virtually afresh” and it was clear that “the existing country guidance will have to change”, the failed Tamil asylum seekers could not be deported as planned.

“That position is one which this court cannot simply blind itself to,” he said.