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ICC Note:

Many international organizations, including the United Nations, has recently spoken out against Sri Lanka’s deportation of Christian refugees. In most cases, these Christian refugees have fled to Sri Lanka from Pakistan and Afghanistan after experiencing intense persecution at the hands of Islamic extremist and harsh Islamic governments. Being deported back to these countries will likely force these Christians to face intense persecution again. Please pray for these persecuted Christians. 

8/14/2014 Sri Lanka (Christian Post) – Sri Lanka has long been one of the few countries to which Pakistanis could travel freely. But at the end of June it suspended their visa-on-arrival facility, signaling that things have changed.

Writing in the New Internationalist, Lasanda Kurukulasuriya, stated that the new rules come against the backdrop of the arrest and detention of 144 Pakistani asylum-seekers and refugees over the past several weeks. The government has been tightlipped about the operation.

“There are 1,397 asylum-seekers and 202 refugees of Pakistani nationality in Sri Lanka, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Most of them are from the Ahmadi community, considered apostate in Pakistan, but there are some Christians and Sunni Muslims too,” she said.

“Last year saw a steep increase in arrivals; in 2012 asylum-seekers of all nationalities totaled just 200, and refugees 103, according to the refugee agency,” she said.

The spate of arrests has caused much anxiety among the Pakistani asylum-seeker community, most of whom live in the coastal town of Negombo, 38 kilometers (23 miles) north of Colombo, she went on to say.

“Reports say the detainees are to be deported, although the Controller of Immigration has refused to confirm this. The UNHCR said there had been no deportations as of 30 June 2014, but it has not been informed of the government’s intentions with regard to the detainees, nor the charges on which the arrests were made. The refugee agency facilitated the release of four of the refugees,” she added.

“Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, nor its 1967 Protocol,” says Dushanthi Fernando, a spokesperson for UNHCR. “The co-operation with UNHCR is based on the agreement signed between the UNHCR and the government of Sri Lanka in 2005 that contains references to UNHCR Statute, 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol. In addition, Sri Lanka is bound by observance of the principle of non-refoulement that has attained the status of international customary law norm.”

This norm prohibits the return of refugees to territory where they face danger.

According to writer, Amy Guilford, who recently returned from Sri Lanka, some of the Pakistani refugees have been there for several years waiting for the UNHCR to handle their asylum application, adding, “They wait without food, shelter, or education, as they are not permitted to work in Sri Lanka.

Guilford, who works alongside International Humanitarian Aid (www.Internationalhumanitarianaid.org), a ministry begun by American pastor, Daniel Scalf, told ANS, “The Sri Lankan government in June 2014 detained around 160 Pakistani asylum seekers. The detainees that already had refugee status were released. On July 31, 2014, twelve of the asylum seeker detainees were deported.

“August 1, 2014 they began the deportation of 10 people per day. All deported will be Christians.”

“Deportation is against international law per UNHCR detention guidelines 4.1, it is unlawful to detain asylum seekers if the reason of their detention is not in line with the public order, public health, or national security.”

She went on to tell ANS, “Their homes have been raided illegally and they have been detained in prison, many separated from their families for weeks without reason or just cause. They have not been charged with anything and did not receive a trial. Asylum seekers are now in persecution from the land to which they fled for safety.

“Upon return to Pakistan they face persecution, prosecution, torture, and death for their crime of being a Christian.”

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