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'Sri Lanka still not safe for Tamils'

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Chris Slee, a refugee rights activist in Melbourne and a founding member of the Tamil Refugee Council, wrote on how Sri Lanka continues to be an island where Tamils are under threat as the Australian government looks to deport a family of four this week.

See extracts reproduced below. Read the full piece on Green Left here.

On September 18 the Federal Court will hear an appeal by a Tamil family against their impending deportation from Australia to Sri Lanka.

The family fears being sent back to Sri Lanka, because of their traumatic experiences there (Priya saw her fiancé burnt to death by government forces), and the ongoing repression of Tamils by the racist government.

This repression, while affecting all Tamils, particularly targets those who had links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a movement that fought for an independent Tamil state and was for many years the de facto government of a large part of northern and eastern Sri Lanka.

The LTTE was militarily defeated in 2009. The Sri Lankan government's victory was accompanied by a genocidal massacre of tens of thousands of Tamils. In the years since 2009, thousands of Tamils have fled by boat.

As president, Sirisena has kept  a large military presence in Tamil areas.  Since the army is the perpetrator of horrendous crimes against the Tamil people, its very presence is a cause of fear.  There have been reports of continuing sexual harassment of Tamil women by the army, as well as reports of Tamil farmers being driven from their land at gunpoint.

The Australian government does not keep track of what has happened to asylum seekers returned to Sri Lanka from Australia, but it is known that some have been intimidated by regular visits to their homes by the army and police.

People who have fled from violence and terror should not be sent home against their will.  They should be able to decide for themselves if and when they feel it is safe to return.  They should be given permanent residency and welfare and work rights, so they can build a new life in Australia.