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‘Stop refugee deportation to Sri Lanka’ – Swiss Refugee Council

The Swiss Refugee Council (OSAR) has asked Swiss authorities to stop the deportation of refugees back to Sri Lanka, due to the country’s “deteriorating” situation.

“Since the new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa took office in November 2019, the situation in this country formerly affected by civil war has indeed deteriorated” stated OSAR.

In their statement released last week, OSAR called on the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) to carefully analyse the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka and to adapt its asylum procedures accordingly; as well as to suspend the expulsion of refugees to Sri Lanka, until a migration partnership with conditions founded by “good governance” among other values is established.

The announcement by OSAR highlights issues raised in the UN report released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in January, including failed investigations of war crimes and human rights violations committed by government officials, the promotion of suspected war criminals, and the increased power of the president which undermines the independence of the judiciary, police and national human rights institutions.

OSAR also underlined the lack of media freedom, increased state surveillance, reinforced measures against civil society organisations, human rights defenders and families of the disappeared (FOD) in Sri Lanka, stating

“OSAR has received various disturbing reports that paint a similar picture of the current human rights situation in the country.”

The use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to justify arbitrary detentions is also mentioned in the statement, where “anti-terrorism detainees in Sri Lanka can be jailed for ten or fifteen years without trial” with occurrence of “deaths in custody, torture, ill-treatment and extrajudicial executions” as well as “kidnappings, torture and sexual violence committed by the security forces" for which the offenders go without punishment. 

“OSAR is very concerned about these developments and the deteriorating situation in the country. The UN report explicitly recommends that member states of the UN Human Rights Council review their asylum practices towards Sri Lanka in order to ensure that asylum seekers with subject to a decision be subjected to torture and serious human rights violations upon their return. OSAR supports this call” - OSAR

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