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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Tamil Refugees & Asylum Seekers > Minority Rights Group Profile, 1990
|This is a true story, although Javanarajahs name has been changed to protect relatives still in Sri Lanka. Thanks to Amnesty International, Refugee Council, Winstanley Burgess, Solicitors and others for information|
Seenithamby Javanarajah is a young Tamil Sri Lanka who fleet to the UK. Over the past five years his life has been a constant nightmare of flight and detention - a victim of both the vicious civil war in Sri Lanka and arbitrary and unfair procedures in facing asylum seekers in the UK.
Javanarajah, who is from Jaffna in the north of Sri Lanka, fled the country after his home was shelled and he was detained in an army camp where he was beaten with barbed wire. With the help of friends and family he managed to buy tickets to Canada via Heathrow airport.
Javanarajah expected to find a safe haven in the West when he escaped in June 1987. Instead UK immigration officers prevented him from travelling to Canada. He was detained in Latchmore Detention Centre and within six weeks his application for asylum was rejected. During this period UK government ministers described fleeing Sri Lankan Tamils as 'bogus' refugees.
Tamil asylum-seekers were now desperate. One group of 58 Tamils only managed to avoid immediate return to Sri Lanka by stripping off their clothes on the airport tarmac. Many Tamils were detained in virtual prison conditions, some aboard the 'Earl William', a former car ferry. When a hurricane swept the south of the country in October 1987, the 'Earl William' and her inmates were cast adrift. After this incident the government agreed to release that group into the Tamil community in London.
However the UK government remained determined to remove Tamil asylum-seekers and in February 1988 Javanarajah and five other Tamil men were forcibly removed to Sri Lanka. Because their claim for asylum had been rejected, under UK law the unsuccessful claimants count appeal only after Weir return to their country of origin. Solicitors acting for Javanarajah and four other rejected Tamils lodged an application for an appeal under the 1971 Immigration Act.
An independent Adjudicator heard the appeals. In April 1989 he held in favour of the deported Tamils saying . . .
"I have little difficulty in accepting that each of these applicants left Sri Lanka as claimed because they were afraid that as young Tames every minute they remained they were at risk . . . it could not be forecast what the day wand bring by way of tension, interrogation, detention and even physical hand and dean of property''. He directed that the Tamils be returned to the UK "with the minimum delay".
During his forced return to Sri Lanka Javanarajah travelled to Jaffna where the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) was responsible for security. A month after his arrival he was detained by the IPKF and made to appear before three hooded informants' one of whom nodded his head when Javanarajah appeared. He was then taken to an IPKF camp, where he was detained, interrogated, kicked and beaten with pipes. He was severely beaten three more times over the next seven days and it was only aver 10 weeks of detention that this family managed to secure his release by bribery.
Seenithamby Javanarajah and the other deported Tamils were finally brought back to the UK in October 1 Beg. Again he was refused asylum by the UK government and was given only 'exceptional leave to remain'. He is still fighting that refusal of asylum.