'Sending people back to be killed': Today's London to Colombo flight of failed refugees

Mass expulsions from Britain to Sri Lanka of 'failed' asylum seekers are increasing in frequency despite public controversy.

The UK Border Agency have planned another deportation charter flight to Sri Lanka, today at 4pm.

Despite public controversy, these mass expulsions to Sri Lanka are actually becoming more frequent. There are now charter deportation flights from London to Colombo departing on an almost monthly basis. Since mid-2012, the Australian government have followed Britain’s example, with planes full of ‘failed’ Tamil asylum seekers taking off from Christmas Island. Media reports (see here and here) claim that dozens of refugees deported from Australia in November were arrested on arrival in Sri Lanka.

Last month I asked Yasmin Sooka, who is a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, if she was concerned by the deportation of Tamils to Sri Lanka from Commonwealth States such as Britain and Australia. She responded, in a personal capacity, that these governments are “sending people back to be killed and tortured”.

Since December 2011, activists in London have attempted three times to physically block the buses which transfer Tamils from the detention centre to the deportation flight. Their actions have caused delays and given Barristers more time to get removal directions cancelled. Although these protests have resulted in 10 arrests, the Crown Prosecution Service have repeatedly dropped all charges, days before activists were due in court (see Bindman's press release). Is this to avoid further disclosure of the Government’s complicity in torture?

The British Ministry of Defence are still refusing to answer a Freedom of Information request about whether Liam Fox’s fixer, Adam Werritty, visited Sri Lanka shortly before the deportation charter flights began in June 2011. A complaint to the Information Commissioner has been made.

The UK Border Agency Country of Origin Information Service (COIS) have admitted in response to a Freedom of Information request that they do not know the identity of a source they cited in their July 2011 Country of Origin report on Sri Lanka. This ‘Colombo based human rights worker’ claimed it “was well known that many persons who were held in IDP camps at the end of the conflict scarred themselves so that on release they could make allegations that the Sri Lankan government had tortured them”.

This piece was originally published on the Stop Deportations blog.