Labour: Stop forcible return of Tamils to Sri Lanka

Thursday November 15, 2018

The UK's Labour party has urged the British government to stop forcible return of Tamil refugees to Sri Lanka.


In an urgent letter sent to the UK Home Secretary in the wake of deepening political crisis in Sri Lanka, seven Labour MPs said:


'We write to raise serious concerns regarding the Home Office’s asylum and returns policy on Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is currently in the midst of its worst crisis since the end of the country’s armed conflict in 2009.


This week, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court suspended President Sirisena’s unconstitutional attempts to dissolve Parliament and call snap elections. We have been deeply disturbed by the recent, undemocratic actions taken by President Sirisena, including his attempts to sack the country’s legitimate Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and replace him with the former President, Mahinda Rajapaksa – the man accused of perpetrating war crimes, crimes against humanity and egregious human rights abuses during his decade long rule. Given that the Tamil people have so often borne the brunt of gross human rights violations, many from the community – both on the island and here in the UK – are terrified about what the future may hold for them, their family and friends.


We have written to the Foreign Secretary separately on these matters, but these events have major implications for Home Office policy too.


Freedom from Torture has raised alarm about the current crisis in Sri Lanka and “the prospect of escalating brutality by the military, police and intelligence services.” As you’ll know, for the past seven years, Sri Lanka has been the top country of origin for people referred to Freedom from Torture for clinical services including psychological therapy and forensic documentation of torture injuries.


Many traumatised victims are still in treatment. The charity has also documented more than 80 cases of individuals tortured after returning to Sri Lanka from the UK over the past 9 years – this includes multiple cases of torture committed during the tenure of current President Sirisena.


The human rights situation in Sri Lanka is a scandal. We do not consider it safe to forcibly return people to the island, particularly members of the Tamil community. It is the duty of the UK Government to do all it can to ensure that no more lives are put at risk.


Therefore, we call on you to conduct an urgent review into your department’s asylum and returns policy on Sri Lanka and urge you to stop all forced returns to the island.


We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these pressing matters with you at the earliest opportunity and seek a meeting as a delegation of Labour MPs.


We look forward to your response.


Yours sincerely,


Rt. Hon Joan Ryan MP
Member of Parliament for Enfield North Vice Chair, APPG for Tamils


Siobhain McDonagh MP
Member of Parliament for Mitcham and Morden Vice Chair, APPG for Tamils


Wes Streeting MP
Member of Parliament for Ilford North Vice Chair, APPG for Tamils


Rt. Hon Stephen Timms MP
Member of Parliament for East Ham Executive Officer, APPG for Tamils


Mike Gapes MP
Member of Parliament for Ilford South Executive Officer, APPG for Tamils


Virendra Sharma MP
Member of Parliament for Ealing Southall Executive Officer, APPG for Tamils


Gareth Thomas MP
Member of Parliament for Harrow West Member, APPG for Tamils.'