Human Rights Watch has issued a statement calling upon the United Arab Emirates not to deport a group of 19 Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, stating that they would be at “serious risk of torture and persecution upon return”.
The Tamil refugees were part of a group of 46 who fled Sri Lanka by boat in October 2012, when their boat ran into trouble and a Singaporean ship took them to the UAE. All 19 due to be sent back are recognised as refugees by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
The group is made up of 13 males and 6 females, which includes a 66-year-old woman and a 4-year-old girl.
Bill Frelick, refugee program director at Human Rights Watch, said,
"For the UAE to return recognized Tamil refugees to a grave risk of torture in Sri Lanka would signal a total disregard for their well-being – and the most basic principle of international refugee and human rights law… Sri Lanka’s treatment of Tamils they deem politically suspect is dismal and under no circumstances should the UAE deport this group there.”
“The principle of ‘non-return,’ which bars the forced return of refugees, is the cornerstone of worldwide refugee protection… If the UAE forcibly returns these refugees, it not only will put their lives at risk, but erode the foundation of protection for refugees everywhere.”