UNHCR urges Sri Lanka to stop deporting asylum-seekers to Pakistan

Press Releases, 2 August 2014

The UN refugee agency is deeply concerned about the recent deportation of Pakistani asylum-seekers from Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan Department of Immigration and Emigration has confirmed that 18 asylum-seekers of Pakistani origin who were registered with UNHCR were deported in the last two days. There are fears that 10 more people could follow tomorrow.

UNHCR is dismayed by these actions of the Government of Sri Lanka. This comes in the wake of continuous discussions that were held with the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, since a special operation to arrest asylum-seekers and refugees began on 9 June 2014.

To date a total of 214 Pakistani and Afghan people of concern to UNHCR have been arrested and held in two detention centres. UNHCR continues to seek access to them to determine their need for international protection.

The deportation goes against the principle of no forced return, or non-refoulement, enshrined in international customary law. This principle is binding on all States and precludes them from sending asylum-seekers and refugees to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened. Returning an individual to a country where he or she would face a risk of torture is also prohibited under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

UNHCR appeals to the Sri Lankan authorities to uphold their responsibilities under international law and ensure full respect for the rights of people in need of international protection. The organization stands ready to work closely with the Government of Sri Lanka in addressing refugee-related matters.

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