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Families of Tamil asylum seekers assaulted by Sri Lankan security forces

The families of Tamil asylum seekers who have fled to the UK are being harassed, threatened and in some cases physically assaulted by Sri Lankan security forces, said the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) in a press release last week.

“Spouses and parents in the villages of the north of Sri Lanka are being visited by police and army within days of the person in London giving a media interview or participating in a protest,” said the ITJP.

Based on interviews with 26 Tamil asylum seekers in Britain, ITJP reported that all the interviewees said their families “had been repeatedly visited by security services after they had fled the country – including some as recently as September 2019". 

“This shows that surveillance in the UK of Tamils, who have been forced to go into exile, is being used to silence victims and witnesses,” said the Executive Director of the International Truth and Justice Project, Yasmin Sooka, “state agencies wouldn’t need to silence victims’ families if they hadn’t driven them out in the first place”

In several cases, photographs of Tamil demonstrations in Britain were shown to the families of the asylum seekers. 

“They said they have information that I fled abroad and working against the Government of Sri Lanka,” said one interviewee. "They threatened to destroy the whole family.”

“It’s easy to assert that the ongoing flow of Tamils claiming asylum on the basis of torture is the work of a few corrupt security officers but reports of systematic intimidation of the victims’ families belie such a theory,” said Ms. Sooka. 

“These acts of surveillance, intimidation and continued persecution of families indicate the paranoia of the Government of Sri Lanka in wanting to shut down even relatively small protests abroad and penalising those who give interviews. In no way is this approach consistent with the narrative of “reconciliation” that has been fed to donors and diplomats”.

See the full press release here.