Letter to Australian High Commission re Sri Lankan refugees


24 April 2013

His Excellency Michael Potts,
High Commissioner for Australia
Australian High Commission in Wellington
PO Box 4036
Wellington 6140

Email: janet.beams

Dear Mr Potts,

Deportation of Sri Lankan asylum seekers

We are writing to you to convey our concern over your government’s deportation of thirty-eight of the sixty-six Sri Lankan asylum seekers who landed in Geraldton, Western Australia on the 9th of April. On their boat they had carried a New Zealand flag and a sign asking to come to New Zealand.

The human rights catastrophe for ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka has been well documented by organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. These include reports in 2012 of arbitrary arrests, torture, and disappearance of Tamils allegedly linked to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).1

Indeed Human Rights Watch has documented the ongoing use of rape and sexual violence against suspected members or supporters of the LTTE by Sri Lankan security forces. A 2013 report details 75 cases of alleged sexual violence occurring in detention centres.2

Yet what is truly shocking about this deportation is the fact that many of those deported were not given access to lawyers and were not informed of their right to speak with one.

And as you are no doubt aware, Sri Lankan asylum seekers often face persecution upon their forced return. Between 2009 and September 2012, according to the Guardian, ‘15 failed asylum seekers managed to escape back to Britain after being removed by the agency, the UKBA. They subsequently won refugee status after giving evidence to officials saying they were tortured in Sri Lanka.’3

In light of the above we urge you to ensure your government ends its policy of not informing asylum seekers of their rights upon detention and its policy of deporting detainees to Sri Lanka where they face the threat of torture.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

John Minto


1 Brad Adams and Juliette De Rivero, Sri Lanka: Letter to Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch, 14 February 2013, available at: http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/02/14/sri-lanka-letter-human-rights-council

2 Sri Lanka: Rape of Tamil Detainees, Human Rights Watch, 26 February 2013, available at: http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/02/26/sri-lanka-rape-tamil-detainees

3 Shiv Malik, Sri Lankans expelled from UK allege torture after deportation to Colombo, Guardian, 12 February 2013, available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/feb/12/sri-lanka-asylumseekers-torture-claims-uk-deportation

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