United Kingdom plans deportation of Sri Lankan refugees to ‘third country’

Sri Lanka and United Kingdom flags - UK flag with Sri Lanka flag

The United Kingdom has decided to move Sri Lankan refugees seeking asylum from the British-claimed Chagos Islands to ‘a safe third country,’ unless they returned to Sri Lanka ‘voluntarily’.

UK has told the asylum seekers that if they cannot be returned to Sri Lanka they will instead be removed to another undisclosed country. At least 120 Sri Lankans are believed to be housed in a fenced encampment in Diego Garcia, an island in Chagos Archipelago, reported The Island. Sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago is disputed between Mauritius and the United Kingdom.

The United Nations ruled it belonged to Mauritius and ruled it should be handed back to Mauritius. Those who represent the interests of the Sri Lankans want the UK to allow them to settle in the UK.

Over the issue, Global Tamil Forum (GTF), an independent, international advocacy organisation, which adheres to the principles of democracy and non-violence, and works in solidarity with Tamil-speaking people in Sri Lanka and other communities in Sri Lanka said it will not get involved in the ongoing controversy.

The Island sought the GTF’s response to the hotly disputed British action of refusing asylum in the UK. It asked whether the issue at hand would be raised at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Responding to this the GTF spokesperson, Suren Surendiran, said, “The GTF, as an organisation that functions internationally and not specifically in a specific country as such, doesn’t usually get involved in country-specific matters, outside of Sri Lanka. The GTF is predominantly an international advocacy organisation. There are various country-specific Tamil organisations. There are also Tamil institutions / organisations, including legal firms, acting and lobbying on immigration policies in the UK and in various other countries.”

The Maritime Law Tribunal of the United Nations, the United Nations General Assembly and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Chagos Islands belonged to Mauritius, reported The Island.

Some who had been ‘held’ in the disputed UK territory returned “voluntarily” to Sri Lanka. UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Minister, Jesse Norman, recently told Parliament so far over 60 Sri Lankans voluntarily returned home.

Meanwhile, Australia has reiterated that illegal Sri Lankan immigrants wouldn’t be tolerated, under any circumstances. In separate statements, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil, Australian Border Force Commissioner, Michael Outram, and Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) Joint Agency Task Force (JATF) Commander Rear Admiral Justin Jones, have issued dire warnings that those who violated their laws would be dealt with, reported The Island.