COLOMBO (Reuters) – A Sri Lankan court on Monday gave permission to authorities to send back scores of Pakistani asylum seekers, after the government said they were a threat to the island’s security and public health.
Deputy Solicitor General Janak de Silva asked the Appeal court to lift an earlier suspension of deportations, saying there was evidence Pakistanis were committing crimes and bringing malaria into the country, which was otherwise virtually free of the disease.
“Interim relief was vacated and the court has dismissed the application. Now all the asylum seekers are exposed to deportation if government wants,” said Lakshan Dias, lawyer of a 38-year-old Pakistani woman who complained after her husband, brother and father were detained pending deportation.
The court on Aug. 15 ordered authorities to temporarily stop deporting the Pakistanis, after the woman said her family was being forcibly sent home without having their claims properly assessed.
The United Nations refugee agency says 88 Pakistanis have been deported since Aug. 1 in what is has called a breach of international law.
The agency has called for an end to the deportations and demanded access to another 75 detained people who are awaiting deportation.
The Sri Lankan government says the Pakistanis are part of an influx of economic immigrants in the past year who have become a burden on the country’s resources and potentially compromised state and regional security.
Most of the Pakistanis are from the Ahmadiyya Islamic sect. The Ahmadi consider themselves Muslims, but a 1984 Pakistani law declared them non-Muslims and many Pakistanis consider them heretics.
In July, a mob killed an Ahmadi woman and two of her granddaughters in Pakistan after another sect member was accused of posting blasphemous material on Facebook.
According to UNHCR guidelines, members of religious minorities may need protection and require particularly careful examination of their asylum claims.
Sri Lankan authorities deny violating any international laws, saying the country is not a signatory to the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention.
The number of refugees or asylum seekers rose by 700 percent in the year through June 2014 from the previous year, says the foreign ministry. That included 1,562 asylum seekers and 308 refugees.