Amnesty blasts Britain for deporting Sri Lankans

16th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Amnesty International accused Britain on Thursday of deporting Sri Lankans despite knowing they were at risk of torture once they returned home.

The London-based rights group said at least 20 Sri Lankan failed asylum seekers, who are mainly Tamils, faced forcible return on a flight from London's Gatwick Airport to Colombo on Thursday.

Amnesty said at least one of the failed asylum seekers due to be deported had tried to commit suicide at an airport detention facility, following death threats he reportedly received on the telephone.

The threats to the man, whom Amnesty did not name, were made after he gave a media interview.

British authorities refused to confirm the deportations had taken place.

A Home Office spokesman told AFP: "We don't comment in advance of charter operations for security reasons."

Yolanda Foster, Sri Lanka researcher at Amnesty, said: "Nobody should be deported from the UK if they are at risk of torture.

"The end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka in May 2009 has not diminished the risks faced by failed Sri Lankan asylum seekers, who continue to be subjected to arrest and detention upon their arrival in Sri Lanka.

"We are aware of cases of returned asylum seekers being tortured."

"The British government has a responsibility under international law to protect people at risk of torture and should not remove them," Foster added.

A British lawmaker, Siobhain McDonagh, accused Britain of "painting targets on the backs" of the deported Sri Lankans.

"I think parliament needs to say whether we want our country to continue with these miserable deportations, and to continue to have Tamil blood on our hands," she said in a debate Thursday in the House of Commons.

McDonagh identified one of the Tamils concerned as Jenach Gopinath, who had previously worked for a leading Tamil lawmaker who has subsequently been arrested and detained in Sri Lankan.

"The UK takes its international responsibilities seriously and considers each claim for asylum on its individual merits -- if an applicant demonstrates a need for international protection they will be granted it," said Immigration Minister Damian Green.

© 2011 AFP

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