Written by Bella Dalima
03 Jul, 2014 | 11:01 pm
Controller General of Immigration and Emigration, Chulananda Perera says that steps will be taken to repatriate 142 Pakistani nationals if their refugee status is not verified.
Responding to a question posed by News1st, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR notes, that if the deportation takes place, the Agency would view this as a grave breach of its agreement with the Government of Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, US-based Human Rights Watch says that the Controller General of Immigration should not deport these people, until the UN High Commission for Refugees has determined their need for protection.
New York-based Human Rights Watch reports that at least 142 Pakistani nationals arrested in Sri Lanka throughout last month are being detained and are scheduled to be deported.
Human Rights Watch notes that most of the Pakistani asylum seekers are from the Ahmadiyya minority while the detainees also include Christians and Shia Muslims.
The UNHCR meanwhile responding to questions posed by News1st, says that the detainees are being held at the Boossa and Mirihana detention centres. The UNHCR adds that it has affirmed the refugee status of six of the detainees, while 136 are asylum seekers.
According to the UNHCR a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence.
It is learnt that the 142 Pakistani nationals had arrived in Sri Lanka by obtaining an on arrival visa and had done so on a number of occasions.
News1st spoke to the Controller General of Immigration Chulananda Perera on the issue:
He noted that while steps are being taken to repatriate the detainees, those whose refugee status has been confirmed by the UNHCR, will be handed over to governments willing to accept them.
UNHCR says that the United States and Canada have come forward to assist six individuals whose refugee status had been verified.
However, when questioned on Sri Lanka’s obligations in this regard, the UNHCR noted that while Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the 1951 convention relating to the status of refugees or its 1967 protocol. The Government of Sri Lanka’s co-operation with UNHCR is based on an agreement signed between the two parties in 2005 that contains references to the UNHCR statute, the 1951 convention and 1967 protocol.
The UN Refugee Agency added that if the deportation takes place, it would also be a breach of the customary international law principle which forbids countries from sending refugees back to places where their life or freedom would be threatened.
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