Responding to the news of seven Eelam Tamils being captured and tortured by Russian forces, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry slammed the asylum asserting that they are illegal migrants and refuse to return to Sri Lanka.
“They have gone through a human smuggling agent in January without knowing where their destination is going to be. They have come to Ukraine, they don’t know at which airport they landed. Then they have been taken in a vehicle for so many days” a senior Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry official stated.
They added that “this illegal agent arranged for them to work in a factory until they leave for Europe. They are not students. This area where they were positioned is very close to the Russian border and the ongoing conflict.”
The group of Tamil asylum seekers is comprised of 6 men and 1 woman from Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Uddappuwa, Vavuniya and Mannar. They were held captive by the Russian forces in Vovchansk during the occupation of the city. It was recaptured by Ukraine earlier this month.
The group told journalists that during their captivity, lasting four months, they endured beatings, solitary confinement, and torture – including having their toenails pulled out with pliers.
"We thought we would never get out alive," Dilujan Paththinajakan told the BBC.
Read more here: Eelam Tamils tortured by Russia in Ukraine
Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry claimed the asylum seekers had paid around one million rupees for their journey and that if they wish to return to Sri Lanka, “the Ukrainian Government will release them”.
The official further maintained that “This is the case for most Sri Lankan coming from Jaffna North to reach Europe illegally. They cross Ukrainian borders. First, they come to Moscow and then they cross through Ukraine illegally and wait to go to the European border. From Hungary, Poland and Slovakia there are borders to Europe.”
He adds that Russia had initially provided “shelter” before being “found by the Ukrainian forces” who provided them shelter at a hostel at a conflict-free area. He further asserts that at the point of being provided shelter and that their health condition was normal.
In the past few years, Sri Lanka has deepened its ties with Russia. Throughout the economic crisis, Sri Lanka has been relying on Russian oil imports.
While numerous countries have condemned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Sri Lanka announced that it would not take sides in the conflict.
During the latest UN Human Rights Council session, Russia's ambassador defended the conduct of Sri Lanka's police, claiming that they were acting against “radicals and criminals”
Read more here.