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Authorities mute on detained Pak, Afghan asylum seekers

Nearly 200 Pakistani and Afghan asylum seekers have been rounded up by Sri Lankan authorities and are being held without charge. It is feared that these asylum seekers – which include Ahmadis, Shia Muslims, and Christians – will be deported back to the dangerous conditions of their home countries, in violation of Sri Lanka’s international human rights obligations. The UNHCR (UN refugee agency) office in Sri Lanka’s largest city, Colombo, has promised to join its efforts with the Sri Lankan government to find a solution for the protection of these religious minorities.

By Sandun Jayawardana

7/5/2014 Sri Lanka (The Nation) – Uncertainty continues to hang over the fate of nearly 200 Pakistani and Afghan asylum seekers who have been rounded up by authorities. The asylum seekers are still being held without charge, and there are fears that they would be deported.

The Department of Immigration in Emigration, with assistance from the police, has been rounding up Afghan and Pakistani asylum seekers in [Sri Lanka] since last month. The majority of those rounded up are Pakistanis from the minority Ahmadiyya community, though the detainees also include Christians and Shia Muslims, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). The organization has already appealed to the Sri Lankan Government not to deport the asylum seekers, noting the country would be in breach of its international obligations if it did so.

“Sri Lankan authorities are threatening Pakistani minority group members with deportation at the very time when persecution of these groups is escalating in Pakistan,” said Bill Frelick, HRW Refugees Director, according to a statement released by the organization. “Preventing asylum seekers from lodging claims in no way absolves Sri Lanka from its duty not to return them to possible persecution.”

When contacted, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Colombo said UNHCR’s concerns have been communicated to the relevant authorities “and we wish to work with the government in finding a sustainable solution that is in par with the international refugee protection standards and norms.”

Police Spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana, when queried about the raids and detentions, referred the matter to Controller General of Immigration and Emigration, Chulananda Perera. However, repeated attempts to contact him proved futile.

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