News Articles

The Sri Lankan hell we send our asylum seekers to


The Sri Lankan hell we send our asylum seekers to

THEY took a dangerous sea journey in the hopes of escaping persecution.

But there are now fears that 41 asylum seekers who were handed back to Sri Lankan authorities by Australia could face enormous intimidation and harassment now they are reportedly back in their home country.

Sri Lankan police spokesman Ajith Rohana told Reuters the group of asylum seekers would be charged for leaving the country illegally, and if found guilty they could face two years in jail.

Those 41 people may be joined by a further 153 asylum seekers who were on board a second intercepted boat. Their fate hangs on an imminent Australian High Court decision, which will decide whether Australia is acting illegally in border protection matters.


This Sri Lankan naval vessel, the Samudra, transferred the 41 would-be asylum seekers to

This Sri Lankan naval vessel, the Samudra, transferred the 41 would-be asylum seekers to land at the southern port of Galle in Sri Lanka. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

Tamil Refugee Council convener Trevor Grant said he was very concerned the returned asylum seekers will face “enormous” persecution and intimidation.

He said the council believes if the returned asylum seekers are found guilty of illegally exiting the country, they will end up in the notorious Boossa Prison, 12km north of the Sri Lankan port of Galle, where conditions are brutal.

“Once you are in the Sri Lankan prison system, once you are in custody, there are many reports ... that it’s a shocking place to be,” he said.

“You have every right to fear torture and for your life if you are in a Sri Lankan prison.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Fairfax Radio last week he was “absolutely confident” no harm would come to the asylum seekers.

“We believe that we are at all times acting in accordance with our international obligations,” he said.

“I would be very happy to give the Australian people an assurance that we are absolutely confident that no harm would come to anyone who has been in our charge.

The father of a three-year-old girl named Febrina, who is among 37 children on the second boat, with 153 people on board, has appealed for the government to protect his daughter.

Picture: AFP

Picture: AFP Source: AFP

“I am desperate to know where my family is. I can’t function at all not knowing. I know all of them would be in very big trouble if sent back to Sri Lanka,” he told the Tamil Refugee Council through an interpreter.

Mr Grant told it is believed that 11 people on board the second boat have been tortured before and will be taken back to their torturers.

“We are sending people already tortured by Sri Lanka, back to them. To send people back to a place where they have been tortured beggars belief.”

“It defies description, that a government that supports democracy is using tactics of a totalitarian regime to achieve a political objective.”


Sri Lankan asylum seekers stand in a queue outside a court in Negombo, Sri Lanka, last ye

Sri Lankan asylum seekers stand in a queue outside a court in Negombo, Sri Lanka, last year. Australia returned 79 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka in 2013. Picture: AP Source: Supplied

Another destination where the asylum seekers could end up is the notorious Negombo Prison, close to Colombo, the country’s largest city.

Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning said the conditions there are “fairly severe” and detainees have been tortured.

“It’s horrible,” he said. “For us to be sending people back to this regime is certainly immoral, probably very likely illegal, and certainly in breach of our international obligations.”

Mr Glendenning said some of the people sent to Negombo since October last year were held in 8m by 10m cells packed with up to 75 people.

He added that detainees only get out for an hour each day, and the justice system is very slow moving.


Picture: Gary Ramage

Picture: Gary Ramage Source: News Corp Australia

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement yesterday that all people intercepted and returned to Sri Lanka were subjected to an “enhanced screening process, as also practised by the previous government, to ensure compliance by Australia with our international obligations under relevant conventions.”

Morrison to visit Sri Lanka amid boat row

Mr Morrison said that immigration advocates were inadvertently doing the work of people smugglers.

“We will not allow people smugglers to try and exploit and manipulate Australia’s support of (international) Conventions as a tool to undermine Australia’s strong border protection regime that is stopping the boats and the deaths at sea.

“The Government will continue to reject the public and political advocacy of those who have sought to pressure the Government into a change of policy.

“Their advocacy, though well intentioned, is naively doing the bidding of people smugglers who have been responsible for almost 1200 deaths at sea.

He added that no asylum seeker has drowned at sea since Operation Sovereign Borders began.

“Today is the 200th day since the last people smuggling venture successfully arrived. In that time no one has drowned at sea.

“This is an outcome the Government welcomes.” has contacted Minister Morrison’s officer for further comment.

Originally published as The hell we’re sending asylum seekers to

There are currently no comments, be the first to post one.
Add Comment
Only registered users may post comments.