The UK is set to deport dozens of Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka from the UK on 19th September, disregarding clear evidence of torture on return and the outcries of the Tamil community and human rights groups. Injunctions have been granted in the High Court last night, stopping some removals, and others are expected today.
Meanwhile, activists have started a blockade of Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, to prevent detainees being taken to the airport. At least one activist is locked on underneath one of the coaches. Activists have been forced to take this drastic action in an attempt to stop a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits the use of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment – and prohibits any state from deporting individuals to countries where they will face that treatment.
Gobi, a Sri Lankan national at the blockade, said:“we are here because we must stop sending refugees back to the killing fields. The genocide in Sri Lanka is still happening. Tamils are being sent back to torture. The Sri Lankan government refuses to accept United Nations recommendations to investigate ‚disappearances‘. If the UK continues with this, they are hiding genocide”
The activist locked-on underneath the bus, who did not want to be named, said:“We are here to stop torture and death, because we have no other option. We are here for the Sri Lankans and in protest and solidarity with every migrant imprisoned and threatened with deportation.”
Michael Collins at the National Coalition of Anti Deportation Campaigns said:„NCADC condemns this mass deportation. In light of the evidence from Freedom From Torture and Human Rights Watch, it is unbelievable that the Border Agency is going ahead with this. The message they are sending out is that the UK cares more about immigration statistics than torture.“
These actions follow similar moves in May to stop another charter flight to Sri Lanka, where a sit-down protest from community members may have delayed the departure of the flight long enough for injunctions – a legal decision cancelling an individual’s ticket – to be granted. Many of these injunctions were granted by the High Court on the basis of the credible evidence of torture on return. (1)
As Channel 4 news has brought to national attention, violence and intimidation has not ceased in Sri Lanka with the end of the civil war. Human Rights Watch have tracked refused Tamil asylum seekers returned to Sri Lanka, who have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and torture or other ill-treatment. (2)
Another NGO, Freedom from Torture, has this week published a new report documenting 24 individuals tortured with deliberate burns with cigarettes and heated metal instruments, beating with pipes or cables and partial asphyxiation using water or plastic bags containing petrol. (3)
Support groups, lawyers and activists have rallied to try and stop this flouting of the UK’s duty to respect human rights,(4) but the use of private charter flights (departing from an unknown airport and operated by an unknown company) mean these expulsions are not open to scrutiny and proper legal challenges. With widespread condemnation and media coverage of the UK’s continued use of charter flights to deport people to a regime with clear evidence of torture on return, it begs the question why UK is flouting international law in such a way.
Published: September 19, 2012 by NCADC