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ICC Note:

After nearly a month of forced deportations, which many experts have claimed violate international law, a court of appeals in Sri Lanka has halted the deportation of Pakistani Christian refugees. In its decisions, the court explained that Sri Lanka is a signatory to UN refugee laws and should decide on each refugees asylum claim individually before that individual is deported. At least 108 Pakistanis have already been forcefully deported back to Pakistan, many of them coming from the Christian religious minority group that faces much persecution. 

8/18/2014 Sri Lanka (Colombo Gazette) – The Court of Appeal has ordered the suspension of deporting Pakistani asylum seekers back to their country, till August 29.

In issuing the order, the Court of Appeal had noted that Sri Lanka is a signatory to UN refugee laws and so should not send back asylum seekers.

Earlier this week two United Nations human rights experts expressed their grave concern at the situation of Pakistani asylum seekers in Sri Lanka who are being detained and forcefully deported to Pakistan without an adequate assessment of their asylum claims.

“States must guarantee that every single asylum claim is individually assessed with due process and in line with international law,” stressed the UN Special Rapporteurs on minority issues, Rita Izsák, and on freedom of religion and belief, Heiner Bielefeldt.

At least 108 Pakistani citizens have been deported since the beginning of August, according to the UN Refugees Agency (UNHCR).

“Most asylum seekers from Pakistan belong to religious minorities, including Ahmadiyya Muslim, Christian and Shia, groups that are often subjected to persecution, discrimination and violence in Pakistan,” Ms. Izsák said. “Many of them are being deported despite being registered with UNHCR and having their first instance interviews still pending.”

Violent attacks against religious minorities have increased significantly in recent years, according to Pakistani sources. Last year, 687 persons belonging to religious minorities were reportedly killed in over 200 separate attacks.

“Such violence is fueled by existing blasphemy legislation particularly targeting minorities and lack of protective measures for them in Pakistan,” Bielefeldt said.

“The personal security and safety of Ahmadiyya Muslims, Christians and Shias who are being returned to Pakistan from Sri Lanka is a matter of serious concern, due to the large number of cases of violent attacks and threats against members of those religious communities by militant extremists in Pakistan,” he highlighted.

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