The Australian federal Government may face a legal challenge over its deportation this month of a boatload of Sri Lankan asylum-seekers, who were flown back from the Cocos Islands, an Australian territory.
Sri Lankan human rights lawyer Lakshan Dias described the deportations as a “grave violation of international law” and said he had been in contact with lawyers in Australia interested in pursuing a challenge, The Australian newspaper reported.
He said the recent decision by the Papua New Guinean High Court, which declared Australia’s detention centre on Manus Island illegal, would have had no bearing on the Sri Lankans’ decision to go to Australia. He doubted they would have heard of it.
Dias represents one of the asylum-seekers deported. He said his client was poor, desperate and illiterate and “didn’t even own a mobile phone”. There was a “high possibility” his client was being persecuted in Sri Lanka and had a legitimate case for asylum, he said.
The boat carrying 12 Sri Lankans was spotted off the coast of the remote Cocos Islands a fortnight ago. After deportation, they were taken into custody when they arrived in Colombo and questioned by the country’s Criminal Investigation Department about how they had left Sri Lanka.
Ten of them have been released on bail. However, two people, including Mr Dias’s client, remain in the Negombo Prision, charged with “leaving the country from an unlawful harbour”. (Colombo Gazette)