Oct 17, 2012

Why Tamils still flee war-ravaged Sri Lanka

Politics can drive many false claims about refugees, among them the notion that suffering and persecution ends after a war officially concludes.

Professor Damien Kingsbury

Crikey international affairs commentator

Among the many claims that are made about “boat people” in order to fulfil particular political agendas, one is that when a war is officially concluded then people who live in the once afflicted area have nothing more to worry about. As a result, they do not have a legitimate claim for protection against persecution.

If people flee such an area, the assumption is that they are “economic” refugees, hoping to “queue jump” in order to secure a better life for themselves. This has been the claim made about refugees fleeing Sri Lanka. This claim is morally wrong and it is wrong in fact.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions



Leave a comment

6 thoughts on “Why Tamils still flee war-ravaged Sri Lanka

  1. klewso

    I have no qualms about sending back the “economic refugees” – what I do object to is politicians/people using that brush to tar them all, for their own political purposes.

  2. Clytie

    Well-expressed, thankyou. An aspiring totalitarian government will use a specific ethnic or social group as whipping boy, target and threat, focussing the frustration, anger, confusion and fear of the population on a group which can’t effectively fight back. Once that group is defeated, the government will persecute others it perceives as a threat: those who question, those who know, those who maintain community and familial bonds. In the end, everyone is a threat except you and me, and I’m not sure about you.

    Government paranoia is incompatible with democracy, which requires actually listening to the people.

  3. Dion Giles

    Are the adverse secret police reports on Tamil refugees as security threats really based on threats to Australian security or are they based on the threats of their presence in Australia to cosy relations with the butchers whose guns crushed (for now) the Tamils’ right to self-determination?

  4. Warren Joffe

    The idea that the Tamils are security threats to Australia is indeed ridiculous and ASIO ought to be ashamed at giving cover to politicians who want to say so. After the Tamil Tigers caused the loss of civilian lives in an Air India plane brought down in the sea in the 1990s the Tamil diaspora which supported them put its foot down and threatened to withold support if foreigners were harmed.

    It makes much more sense to accept Tamils than Sudanese and Somalis who have been sitting round in East African refugee camps for years. Tamils would become taxpayers quite quickly, on average, and soon fit in as potential citizens. The most cost-effective way of helping the Africans by a very wide margin is to help them in Africa with job-creating schemes for health-care and education.

  5. Student T

    “As a country that claims to respect human rights, Australia should join in the international condemnation of Sri Lanka’s persecution of its own citizens.” Yes we should, though half the commenters here would accuse us of being racist and make some kind of ridiculous comparison with aborigines.

    “And, if there is no change, we can continue to reasonably expect more Tamils, and other Sri Lankans, to want to come to our shores seeking protection.” No we shouldn’t.
    The Sri Lankan Tamils should go to Tamil Naidu in India. Many do. India is 35 kilometers from Sri Lanka. You could swim it.

    Cue: But India is not signatory to the UN convention blah, blah, blah

  6. Warren Joffe

    Have you ever tried getting an Indian visa of any kind? Indian bureaucracy would beat the USSR’s or even Czarist Russia’s for capacity to drive them slowly mad while waiting indefinitely?

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details