UNHCR deeply concerned as Sri Lanka continues with deportations

Briefing Notes, 5 August 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ariane Rummery to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 5 August 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has learnt that a total of 36 Pakistani asylum-seekers have been deported from Sri Lanka since last Friday. More could follow, including women and children. UNHCR urges the authorities to stop the deportations and grant us access to refugees and asylum-seekers still detained in Colombo.

The deportations took place between August 1 and 5 following two months of arrests and detentions of people of concern to UNHCR. We understand that most of the deportees have arrived in Pakistan and been released. However, we are unable to monitor their return conditions, and appeal to the Sri Lankan authorities to respect the principle of non-refoulement by not sending people back to a place where their lives could be in danger without the opportunity to assess their needs for international protection.

There are reports that the families of the deported men including women and children who were not detained could be sent back to Pakistan shortly. These reports have understandably caused a great deal of anxiety among the refugee and asylum-seeker population in Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile 205 Pakistani, Afghan and Iranian refugees and asylum-seekers remain in detention in Sri Lanka. UNHCR continues to seek access to them to assess their protection needs.

We note the government's public statements that the recent actions were in response to an increase in the number of asylum-seekers in Sri Lanka. UNHCR, which conducts refugee status determination in the country, is taking steps to increase our capacity to enable the efficient and timely processing of these asylum claims. We are also exploring ways to assist the most vulnerable asylum-seekers, including by setting up referral networks for greater support as they await a decision.

UNHCR recognizes the Sri Lankan government's wish for quicker solutions for the refugees. However, resettlement to a third country is not a right and is a limited solution due to the small number of resettlement countries and places globally.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Bangkok, Vivian Tan on mobile +66 818 270 280
  • In Geneva, Ariane Rummery on mobile +41 79 200 7617
  • In Geneva, Dan McNorton on mobile +41 79 217 3011
• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

UNHCR helps tens of thousands in north-west Pakistan

In north-west Pakistan, UNHCR is working with the government and other UN agencies to assist tens of thousands of people who have left their homes due to a security operation against insurgent groups. Since the military push began in January, more than one hundred thousand residents of the Khyber Agency, which is in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan, have fled the conflict zone. Since mid-March there has been a surge of people arriving at the Jalozai camp, near the city of Peshawar. At Jalozai, Khyber residents are registered and provided with humanitarian supplies and food aid. Though most opt to stay with friends and relatives in nearby towns and cities, those without resources are provided with a tent in a newly-created settlement in Jalozai.

UNHCR helps tens of thousands in north-west Pakistan

UNHCR providing shelter to Pakistan flood victims

The UN refugee agency is stepping up its efforts to distribute tents and other emergency supplies to families left homeless by severe flooding that hit parts of southern Pakistan in 2011. By early October, some 7,000 family tents had been provided to a national aid organization that is constructing small tent villages in southern Sindh province. A similar number of emergency household kits have also been supplied. Though the monsoon rains which caused the flooding have stopped, large areas remain under water and finding sufficient areas of dry land on which to pitch the tents remains a challenge. UNHCR has committed to providing 70,000 tents and relief kits to flood-stricken communities.

UNHCR providing shelter to Pakistan flood victims

Helping Flood Victims in Pakistan

UNHCR teams are distributing tents and other emergency aid to families displaced by severe flooding in Pakistan. More than five million people have been affected by this year's floods and government estimates put the number of families in urgent need of emergency shelter at over 200,000.

In southern Sindh province, which has been particularly hard hit, UNHCR has so far delivered 2,000 tents and 2,000 kits containing jerry cans, blankets and sleeping mats as well as 4,000 plastic sheets to be used for basic shelter. Many of the families displaced by the floods continue to live in makeshift shelters.

Helping Flood Victims in Pakistan

Pakistan: Returning HomePlay video

Pakistan: Returning Home

Since the beginning of November, UNHCR has been offering an enhanced package to every registered refugee in Pakistan choosing to go home to Afghanistan.
Pakistan: Helping the HostsPlay video

Pakistan: Helping the Hosts

Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees in Pakistan's Balochistan province have access to schools and basic services, but the cost is not easy to bear.
Pakistan: Pushed to SafetyPlay video

Pakistan: Pushed to Safety

Thousands are forced to flee the fighting in Pakistan's Khyber Agency on the border with Afghanistan.