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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Tamil Refugees & Asylum Seekers > UK Slams door on Tamil refugees

U.K. slams door on Tamil Refugees

Hasan Suroor, Hindu International, 21 June 2003


" The British Government has decided to slam the door on asylum-seekers from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh by adding the two countries to its list of `safe' nations whose citizens are presumed not to need protection in another country.

But the decision, announced by the Immigration Minister, Beverley Hughes, was attacked by civil rights groups which claimed that the political climate both in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh was still too uncertain to regard these countries as `safe.' They were particularly concerned about the inclusion of Sri Lanka, where, they said, the peace process had not yet stabilised sufficiently.

"We believe that the peace process is still very fragile and the British Government should wait for the situation to become more stable," a spokesperson for Amnesty International told The Hindu, adding that in Bangladesh 46 people were reported to have been killed allegedly by the army and the police last year alone. "Can you call it a safe place" she asked.

The Refugee Council said the decision to put Sri Lanka on the "white list" of presumably safe countries showed that the British Government did "not take the protection of refugees seriously."

"The situation remains fragile and many individuals are still at risk, evidenced by the 170 successful appeals (for asylum) in the first three months of this year,'' the Council said.

Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are among the seven new countries which have been added to the "white list" introduced last year to restrict the flow of refugees into Britain from countries which are considered free from political persecution.

There are now 24 countries from where asylum applications are presumed to be unfounded, and there is no right of appeal once an application is rejected.

The Government justified the decision citing the peace accord in Sri Lanka.

"The countries that we are adding to the list today are generally safe — individuals from these countries are not routinely fleeing for their lives and do not routinely need our protection under the Geneva Convention," Ms Hughes said.

She added that the move was part of a "continuing drive to stop the widespread abuse of our asylum system."

There has been a flood of refugees from Sri Lanka since the outbreak of ethnic conflict and, according to the Home Office figures, last year alone more than 3,000 Sri Lankans applied for asylum.

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