Comments about Tamil asylum seekers by the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia, Mr Senaka Walgampaya, provide a strong reason why the asylum seekers should not be returned to Sri Lanka. Is also makes it almost certain they will meet the criteria of Refugee Convention, even if they didn’t before.

Mr Walgampaya, who speaks of course as a representative of the Sri Lankan government, has publicly stated that the asylum seekers “pose a threat to peace and security of Australia” and that “there must be Tamil terrorists” among them.

There is a mountain of evidence over many years of major human rights abuses by Sri Lankan authorities, including torture, killings and disappearances.  Of course, there were also plenty of grievous human rights abuses by Tamil Tiger leaders, but one hardly excuses the other.  Despite efforts to keep independent observers out, there is also evidence that this is continuing.  A report recently issued by the US State Department makes a strong case that war crimes were committed by Sri Lankan authorities and Tamil Tiger leaders in final months of the civil war earlier this year.

Returning people back to a country with this record when government representatives have already labelled them terrorists and threats to security is simply unthinkable.

It is undoubtedly the opposite of the High Commissioner’s intention, but the more he comments on this matter, the more certain he makes it that Tamil asylum seekers will be recognised as refugee and given permission to stay in Australia.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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