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    Displaced Sri Lankan Tamils in a refugee camp in Vavuniya

The Deportation of Dayan Anthony

Photo: Displaced Sri Lankan Tamils guarded by soldiers in a refugee camp in Vavuniya. Thanks to Christian Science Monitor

Australia's gutlessness turns into callousness

Since the civil war escalated in 2009, the Sri Lankan government has invested enormous and continuous effort in a campaign to discredit the fact that Tamils are now well and truly on the record as a refugee group attempting to escape their nation.

For a number of years so-called "government experts" like Rohan Gunaratnam and others have written opinion pieces in Indonesian, Canadian and Australian newspapers - or commented to reporters like the Australian's Paul Maley - that Tamils should be regarded as terrorists, that they should all be returned to Sri Lanka and that they are not refugees. Yet, Edmund Rice Centre investigations clearly confirm that those returned to Sri Lanka by Australia are subject to arrest and discrimination, if not torture or worse treatment.

Australia's foreign affairs department has continuously lacked the guts to insert a space into its diplomatic relationship with Sri Lanka that acknowledges the validity of the Immigration Department's confirmation of refugee status of many Tamils now living in Australia. Isn't it true that the LTTE is not at all listed as a terrorist organisation by Australia? Where are our foreign experts in government, speaking out about this?

As soon as the Sri Lankan civil war escalated a couple or years ago, Stephen Smith MP was keen to travel to Colombo as Foreign Affairs Minister, announcing funds for extra CCTV camera's at the airport, handing out cricket bats and volleyball nets to NGO's with dire warnings to not "come to Australia the wrong way" with people smugglers (ignoring the fact that Sri Lankans don't need smugglers because they often sail themselves). In his actions, Stephen Smith merely did the bidding of the Immigration Department, trying to stop asylum seekers boarding aircraft and warning them not to come by boat - the usual callous positioning by Australia we know only too well.

What's on this page

For seasoned refugee advocates, the forced deportation of a Tamil asylum seeker to Sri Lanka in July 2012 is a concerning event. It is feared that politics and a political agenda is overriding clean, fulsome and thorough refugee assessment inside the Immigration Department and in the Gillard government. Not without reason or precedents, advocates worry that Dayan Anthony's deportation is a test by the Department of what may come - the deportation of many dozens of Tamils.

This page outlines the process of Mr Anthony's deportation, the confected press conference by local authorities upon his return to Sri Lanka, and Mr Anthony's recantation of his refugee claims - presumably under duress.

Related pages

2 October 2010: Behind the Story of The Sun Sea Tamils - Gisele Gauthier's fantastic summation of the journey and background of the MV Sun Star also mentions it: the ship with Tamils, now docked at Canada's Esquimalt Base, was turned away by Australia during the 2010 Federal election campaign. Here it is.

9 August 2010: MV Sun Sea: Tamils wandering the oceans - There's a boat wandering across the world's oceans, with reports that at the start of the Federal election campaign, Australian authorities boarded the ship and told the captain to move on and 'bugger off' - in the underlying spirit of "sorry folks, we have an election on". This page tells the story.

8 November 2009: Kevin Rudd, stuck and becalmed in Merak - Australia's Prime Minister dreams of an Indonesian Solution that fails within a week. Rudd may have made 'that phone call' to President Bambang Yudhoyono, promising even more funding 'to stop the boats' before they would arrive in Australian waters, but he had not counted on local resistance and to fury from Australia and the rest of the world..

Quick links:

Click the links below to jump down to the articles and items on this page with the same title.

Australia caught in Sri Lanka refugee crossfire

Sydney Morning Herald
July 25, 2012
Ben Doherty

Australia's role in stopping Sri Lankan asylum seekers fleeing the country has been criticised by rights groups as a breach of its international legal obligations, potentially sending people back to harm. But the Sri Lankan government is reportedly frustrated that Australia does not do enough to help stem the exodus.

More than 1500 Sri Lankans have reached Australian territory by boat so far this year, an increase of more than 700 per cent on all of last year.

The Herald revealed yesterday that some asylum seekers returned to Sri Lanka have faced arrest, imprisonment without trial and torture at the hands of state authorities.

Australia has, for several years, provided support to Sri Lanka to try to stop people fleeing. But rights groups say Australia should not be involved in preventing Sri Lankans from leaving, arguing it infringes their fundamental right to seek asylum.

The executive director of the Human Rights Law Centre, Phil Lynch, said Australia worked closely with Sri Lanka, offering financial aid, as well as security and intelligence co-operation.

''At best, this undermines the spirit of the Refugee Convention, which gives people the right to flee persecution and seek protection. At worst, it involves Australia, at least indirectly, in exposing people to torture, cruel treatment and other serious human rights violations,'' he said.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said people smuggling was a crime and Australia ''works closely'' with Sri Lankan authorities to curb it. An Australian Federal Police officer is posted to the high commission in Colombo and agencies work with the Sri Lankan coast guard and navy to ''build their capacity in the area of maritime border security''.

However, after a meeting with the Australian high commissioner, Robyn Mudie, on the issue of asylum seekers, Sri Lankan Navy Commander Vice-Admiral Somathilake Dissanayake told Sri Lankan media Australia was not co-operating with its investigations.

''The Sri Lankan Navy intelligence as well as other sister services and police are working overtime to thwart smugglers' plans. But, unfortunately, Australia is not supporting our efforts,'' he was quoted as saying.

He said Australia was refusing to share information about the trawlers that had reached Christmas Island and were now in Australian custody.

www.smh.com.au/.../australia-caught-in-sri-lanka-refugee-crossfire-20120724-22nkc.html

UN plea ignored as refugee sent home

Amanda Hodge
The Australian
July 27, 2012 12:00AM

The Australian government ignored an 11th-hour appeal by the UN human rights commissioner to stay the deportation of a failed Tamil asylum-seeker who yesterday was still being held for questioning by Sri Lankan authorities, more than 12 hours after he arrived in Colombo.

Dayan Anthony became the subject of a second UN appeal on Wednesday night when the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva faxed a letter to the Australian high commission in Bangkok seeking a stay of his deportation from Thailand on the grounds of a complaint made to its Committee Against Torture.

"The committee has decided to request the state party to refrain from returning (name redacted) to Sri Lanka while his complaint is under consideration," the letter, sighted by The Australian, read.

Australian government officials confirmed the Bangkok mission received the letter, but said it raised no new issues relating to Mr Anthony's deportation, and arrived too late to prevent it because he had already left Australia.

Mr Anthony flew into Sri Lanka from Bangkok on Thai Airways flight TG307 at 12.45am (local time) yesterday in the custody of five Australian government officials, including a medical escort for the man who has suffered mental and physical health problems since his 2009 arrest.

He was met by diplomats from the Australian high commission in Colombo, who were present for the first nine hours of questioning by Sri Lankan immigration officials and officers from Colombo police's Criminal Investigation Department.

Yesterday, Mr Anthony was transferred from the airport to CID headquarters in Colombo, where director Mahesh Perera confirmed he would stay until officers could verify his statement.

"If he's involved in LTTE activities, we can always detain him further having authority from a magistrate, otherwise a deportee has to be released within 24 hours," Superintendent Perera said.

Asked to comment on fears for Mr Anthony's safety in CID custody, and claims of torture made by previous deportees, Superintendent Perera insisted "absolutely no harm will come to him".

His Melbourne-based sister and brother-in-law have said they fear for his safety because he is the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the CID in February last year on unspecified allegations of involvement with the vanquished Tamil Tigers. Mr Anthony and his family have denied any links to the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or involvement in terrorism, but they fear Mr Anthony will face repercussions because of evidence he gave to the UN on torture in Sri Lanka.

Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told media in Colombo yesterday that if an asylum-seeker were sent back to Sri Lanka after making a statement to an international forum, it "proves the statement is false".

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said Australia had a "robust assessment of asylum claims" and would not breach its obligations under the UN Refugee Convention. Amnesty International said last night Mr Anthony should not have been returned to Sri Lanka.

www.theaustralian.com.au/.../un-plea-ignored-as-refugee../story-fn9hm1gu-1226436173385

UN bid for Tamil to stay fails

The Age
July 27, 2012
Daniel Flitton

A last-minute plea from the United Nations to stop immigration authorities deporting a Tamil asylum seeker came too late to prevent him being sent to Sri Lanka, despite claims that he faces torture.

The man has been sent back to Sri Lanka despite official Australian advice warning people against travelling to the northern city of Jaffna where he lived.

The UN human rights commissioner in Geneva had sent the urgent request to the Australian embassy in Thailand early yesterday morning in the hope of getting the man off a plane in Bangkok while on the way back to Colombo.

But the man, who The Age has chosen not to name at his family's request, was taken back to Sri Lanka, where supporters have been unable to contact him.

The Immigration Department said the UN request came while the man was on the plane from Bangkok, and did not raise any information not already considered in rejecting his refugee claim.

"In this instance, timing and practicalities clearly precluded such consideration,'' a spokesman said.

Sri Lankan media have named the man, including his photograph, and published an apparent arrest warrant in his name, raising fears he will be the target of reprisals. He was deported from Melbourne on Wednesday after exhausting all appeals for a refugee visa, including a request for a review by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.

But his supporters lodged a complaint with the UN Committee on Torture the day he was deported, leading the UN to ask that Australia "refrain'' from returning the man to Sri Lanka while his complaint was under consideration.

A human rights lawyer, Phil Lynch, said it appeared to be the first time Australia had defied a UN request of this type, which are issued only rarely.

"It is the international equivalent of an urgent legal injunction,'' he said.

Despite the UN bid, recriminations are rife among refugee advocates wondering why the man had not earlier been made a party to a High Court challenge that would have effectively blocked his deportation.

About 150 other asylum seekers who have failed in their bid for refugee status are party to the case into the discretion of the minister to review visa claims.

Immigration authorities have promised not to deport anyone waiting for the court's decision, expected before October.

Victorian Legal Aid had been advising the man, but his lawyer declined to comment yesterday, citing legal privilege.

An apparently faulty fax machine at the Maribyrnong detention centre, where the man had been held before his deportation, had stopped him sending a letter authorising his lawyers to act on Monday and Tuesday.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/un-bid-for-tamil-to-stay-fails-20120726-22ve7.html

Sent home to 'arrest, torture'

Sydney Morning Herald
July 24, 2012
Ben Doherty

Sri Lankan asylum seekers rejected by Australia and sent home say they have been arrested, imprisoned without trial and tortured.

With about 150 Tamils in the Australian immigration detention system currently facing involuntary return to Sri Lanka, an investigation by The Age has uncovered alleged instances of people being sent back to systematic, state-sanctioned abuse.

Sinhalese brothers Sumith and Indika Balapuwaduge, who were sent back from Australia in 2009 after their asylum claims were rejected, both say they have been interrogated and tortured in police custody.

In one instance, Sumith was horrifically beaten in his home in front of his four-year-old son, his wife has told The Age.

For the past 23 months, the pair have been imprisoned, but they have not yet had a trial.

Another man, whom The Age has chosen not to identify because he fears reprisals, was returned to Sri Lanka after his boat was stopped from reaching Australian waters after direct intervention by then prime minister Kevin Rudd.

He was arrested at the airport in Sri Lanka and accused of being a member of the Tamil Tigers - a charge he denies.

He told The Age he was held for 55 days without charge and regularly assaulted. "They hung me upside down with ropes and put a pole behind my arms, then they hit me with batons,'' the man, 29, said.

''They hung me upside down at 11am and they took me down at 3pm. They hung three of us up, but only two of us came down alive. The other man died."

At liberty now, he says he is still watched by police: "I am living in fear. Even in a new city, my life is like being in jail."

The Sri Lankan government and police deny all allegations of mistreatment.

There has been a surge in the number of asylum seekers leaving Sri Lanka for Australia this year. Many are seeking economic opportunity, while others are fleeing ethnic or political persecution.

More than 1500 Sri Lankan asylum seekers have reached Australian territory so far this year - up more than 700 per cent on the whole of last year.

About 700 others have been arrested in Sri Lanka on board, or about to board, boats bound for Australia, local police say.

In Australia, at least 150 Sri Lankans in the immigration detention system have lodged appeals for judicial review of their failed asylum claims.

If those reviews do not succeed, only ministerial discretion can prevent their deportation.

The Australian government said it does not return anyone whom Australia is obliged to protect under international law, but that all of those not owed protection would be sent home.

"The removal of failed Sri Lankan asylum seekers in those circumstances does not breach Australia's international obligations," a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.

A Sri Lankan police spokesman has denied all allegations of torture and mistreatment, saying the claims are politically motivated.

"These people are told to give a bad image of Sri Lanka, by the people smugglers who make money taking people across the ocean," Ajith Rohana said.

"They are told to pretend they are being ill treated and discriminated against. It is not true ... [torture] does not happen."

But The Age's findings accord with those of rights groups and the United Nations, which said in a recent report it was concerned by allegations of "widespread use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of suspects".

Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Elaine Pearson said her organisation had uncovered more than a dozen cases of asylum seekers returned home from Britain being tortured.

"We've documented cases of at least 13 people who've been returned to Sri Lanka, all Tamils, and who've faced arbitrary arrest, torture, in some cases rape, by government officials upon their return," Ms Pearson said.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/sent-home-to-arrest-torture-20120723-22kur.html

MEDIA RELEASE: Urgent action needed to prevent Tamil deportation

Wednesday July 25, 2012
Ian Rintoul
Refugee Action Coalition
mobile 0417 275 713

Urgent attempts to initiate legal action are being made this afternoon (Wednesday) to try to prevent the deportation of a Tamil asylum seeker to Sri Lanka.

The Tamil man, known in the media as Mr X has already been taken by Immigration authorities to Melbourne's Tullamarine airport.

Mr X has been the subject of an appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture in September 2011. A request from the Special Rapporteur I October 2011 has been unanswered by the Australian government.

The Tamil man was taken from the community to the Marybinong Detention Centre on the 17 July.

"The Department of Immigration has ignored its own regulations by not giving this man any actual notice of his deportation. They are also desperately trying to get around a pending High Court judgment that would allow Mr X further appeal rights.

"The department has ignored that High Court action. He has been prevented from sending faxes for the last two days. The lack of notice is a deliberate measure to thwart possible legal action against his deportation," said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

"The human rights abuses of the Rajapaksa government are well known. In June the British High Court prevented the deportation of around 40 Tamil asylum seekers because of the Court's concerns that forcibly removed Tamils could face arrest and torture in Sri Lanka.

"We are urging the Minister to urgently intervene to prevent this man's removal. The Minister well knows that other Sri Lankans who have been forcibly sent back o Sri Lanka have been arrested, tortured and imprisoned."

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

MEDIA RELEASE: Government ignores torture risk as Tamil asylum seeker deported

Wednesday July 25, 2012
Ian Rintoul
Refugee Action Coalition
mobile 0417 275 713

Despite urgent attempts to initiate legal action this afternoon (Wednesday), the Tamil asylum seeker known as Mr X was deported from Melbourne around 2.30pm.

He was placed on a direct flight to Bangkok and is expected to be taken directly from Bangkok to arrive in Sri Lanka later tonight.

He is the first Tamil asylum seeker to be forcibly deported from Australia.

"This deportation is a shameful and dangerous precedent," said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

"The government has acted in a completely underhand way to prevent any court challenge to this deportation. The Minister knows that a High Court judgement is expected very soon that will potentially give further rights of appeal to asylum seekers facing deportation.

"The Minister is recklessly playing with this man's life. The government has ignored the concerns of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and shows exactly why decision to deport must be subject to court review.

"It seems highly likely that this was decision to push through this deportation is directly tied to recent government negotiations about asylum seekers with the Rajapaksa government - a government internationally tainted by allegations of war crimes.

"There must be an immediate moratorium on deportations until the High Court case is settled. There have been too many instances of people deported from Australia facing arrest, torture and even death when they were returned. The government has an obligation not to deport asylum seekers to danger. Sri Lanka remains a very dangerous place where human rights are not respected."

For more information contact Ian Rintoul mob 0417 275 713

Fears for deported Tamil man

The Age
July 26, 2012
Daniel Flitton & Ben Doherty

Immigration officials have forcibly deported a Tamil man suffering mental health problems to Sri Lanka, despite revelations former asylum seekers have been beaten and tortured on being sent home.

In what threatens to be the first of as many as 150 cases of Tamils being involuntarily sent back to Sri Lanka on failing to win refugee protection in Australia, a man in his early 30s was taken from a detention centre to Tullamarine airport yesterday and put on a flight to Bangkok, bound for Colombo.

He is believed to be the first Tamil asylum seeker to be forced out of Australia since the latest spate of arrivals began in 2008 during the final months of Sri Lanka's brutal civil war.

Other Sri Lankan asylum seekers were either sent home from Indonesia after Australia asked for their boat to be intercepted or were from the Sinhalese ethnic community.

The Tamil man - who The Age has chosen not to identify - had failed in his bid for refugee status and was refused a visa by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen after appealing on the grounds of poor mental health.

He had arrived in Australia by plane in 2010 seeking asylum, having fled the northern city of Jaffna, a former stronghold of the Tamil Tiger group.

His family insist he faces grave danger at home after Sri Lankan media published a photograph of the man showing his face and what appears to be an arrest warrant in his name. ''If he goes there, they kill him,'' his tearful sister said after hearing he was taken to the airport. ''What sort of country do we live [in]? Please give him to me, I will look after him.''

Returned refugees are regularly stopped and interrogated by members of Sri Lankan police's Criminal Investigation Department upon their arrival.

The Age revealed this week some returned asylum seekers have been held for months without trial and face state-sanctioned torture.

The man is understood to be accompanied by security escorts, a medical escort, and an Immigration Department liaison officer, who will stay with him through customs checks at Colombo airport.

He had been living with his sister in Dandenong before being called into the Immigration Department in the CBD last Tuesday and given a letter that told him authorities had judged ''you are removable''.

He had failed to persuade the department or refugee review tribunal he was a refugee.

He appealed to the United Nations special rapporteur on torture to examine his case, with the Australian government responding in January this year. The Immigration Department said the UN had not sought any further details since February.

The man's brother-in-law and sister had asked authorities to grant the family a final visit with the man before he was deported, but this was refused.

The sudden news of his departure yesterday morning set off a panicked bid by refugee advocates to get a court injunction - with emails showing the man had tried for two days to send a fax from within the Maribyrnong Detention Centre authorising lawyers to act on his behalf, only to be told the fax machine was not working.

Advocates sought to join him with about 150 others in a High Court challenge to the rules governing the use of ministerial discretion in asylum cases.

Meanwhile, customs authorities intercepted a boat carrying a suspected 80 asylum seekers at Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean last night. The passengers will be taken to Christmas Island.

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/political-news/fears-for-deported-tamil-man-20120725-22r4g.html

'Tortured' Tamil put on a plane back to Sri Lanka

Amanda Hodge & Stuart Rintoul
The Australian
July 26, 2012

A Tamil asylum-seeker accused of links with the vanquished Tamil Tigers has been deported, despite being the subject of an appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and a pending High Court judgment that could have had an impact on his appeal rights.

Dayan Anthony was taken from the Maribyrnong Detention Centre in Melbourne yesterday and put on a flight to Bangkok at 2.35pm, while refugee advocates scrambled unsuccessfully to get an urgent court hearing.

His distraught Melbourne-based brother-in-law told The Australian he desperately feared for Mr Anthony's safety after he is handed over to Sri Lankan authorities in Colombo as early as this morning.

Mr Anthony, 30, is believed to be the subject of a February 2011 arrest warrant for alleged "involvement in LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) activities".

A copy of the arrest warrant and the Immigration Department's letter of deportation was published on a Tamil news website, sighted by The Australian, a few days ago.

It also published details of his arrest by the Sri Lankan army in May 2009 at Mullivaikkal in the country's north -- the scene of the last, bloody battle between the rebels and army.

The warrant was issued in Mr Anthony's absence by the Colombo Police Criminal Investigation Department.

His brother-in-law told The Australian yesterday neither Mr Anthony nor his family knew what the charges were, but that he had been picked up in 2009 from the southern village of Negombo -- from where he ran a small textiles business -- in one of Sri Lanka's notorious white vans, then tortured and badly beaten.

Tamil news website Varudal, however, reported Mr Anthony was a purchasing officer for an LTTE-owned textiles business and was arrested in Mullivaikkal, where many civilians were caught and killed in crossfire.

It is Mr Anthony's evidence on the use of torture in Sri Lanka before a special UN committee last year for which he could face serious repercussions.

"I am really worried that they're going to take him and give him to the same people that hurt him the first time," his brother-in-law said yesterday.

"All our family (in Sri Lanka) are scared to go and check (what the charges are) but we know it's under the terrorism act. They're worried they will be targeted."

Mr Anthony arrived by air in Australia in early 2010 and immediately sought asylum. Eight months later he was released into his sister and brother-in-law's custody. His family say he has intermittently received medical attention for serious physical injuries and mental health issues.

"After he was tortured he was no longer a fit person. So when he said the government was going to send him back I said 'don't talk rubbish'. I didn't believe him," the brother-in-law said as he choked back sobs yesterday.

While a full report on Mr Anthony's mental condition was given to the Immigration Department, his family now believes the Australian government was determined to make an example of him to deter asylum-seekers.

The family and refugee advocates have accused the government of stymieing last-ditch attempts to prevent Mr Anthony's deportation.

The Tamil man had been trying since Monday to fax documents and authorisation to a Sydney barrister in order to join a High Court class action against the government that would have stayed his deportation.

But his family says he was unable to send them because he was told the Maribyrnong Detention Centre fax was broken.

"We are bitterly disappointed the government has taken this measure," Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said. "It has really been an underhand action by the government.

"They know that there is a High Court action that would have potentially prevented this removal and they have done everything they can to make it impossible for this removal to be challenged in court."

He said Immigration Minister Chris Bowen "well knows that other Sri Lankans who have been forcibly sent back to Sri Lanka have been arrested, tortured and imprisoned".

www.theaustralian.com.au/.../..tamil-on-plane-back-to-sri-lanka/story-fn9hm1gu-1226435181890

Refugee advocates fear for deported Tamil

ABC News Online
By Tony Nicholls
Posted July 26, 2012 12:07:38

Refugee advocates fear a Tamil man deported from Australia will be tortured when he arrives in Colombo.

The asylum seeker left the Maribyrnong Detention Centre in Melbourne on Wednesday.

The Australian Immigration Department says people who have exhausted all legal avenues to remain in in the country and have no lawful basis to remain, must leave.

Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre says the man was not told about his impending removal.

"Under the regulations they are supposed to get 48 hours notice," she said.

"That wasn't done. He did attempt to make contact, to give an authorisation to a lawyer but unfortunately it was said the fax machine didn't work."

Asylum seeker advocate Sara Nathan says the man has injuries that are a result of torture.

"We choose to ignore him and send him back to the people that tortured him in the first place," she said.

Ms Nathan says the man probably will not even make it out of the airport when he arrives.

"Quite a few of them are picked up at the airport itself," she said.

"They get taken to the fourth floor of the criminal investigation unit which is notorious for torture.

"They'll be held there for a few days and tortured with no communication to anybody."

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-07-26/refugee-advocates-fear-for-deported-tamil/415637

More may follow as Tamil deported

The Age
July 26, 2012
Daniel Flitton & Ben Doherty

Australian immigration officials have forcibly deported to Sri Lanka a Tamil man suffering mental health problems, despite revelations asylum seekers have been beaten and tortured when sent back.

In what threatens to be the first of up to 150 cases of Tamils sent back to Sri Lanka after failing to win refugee protection, a man in his early 30s was taken from a Melbourne detention centre to Tullamarine airport yesterday and put on a flight to Bangkok bound for Colombo.

He is believed to be the first Tamil asylum seeker to be forced out of Australia since the latest spate of arrivals began in 2008 in the final months of Sri Lanka's brutal civil war. Other Sri Lankan asylum seekers were either sent home from Indonesia after Australia asked for their boat to be intercepted or were from the Sinhalese community.

The Tamil man - who the Herald has decided not to identify - had failed in his bid for refugee status and was refused a visa by the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, after appealing on mental health grounds.

He arrived in Australia by plane in 2010, having fled Jaffna, a former stronghold of the Tamil Tiger separatists.

His family insist he faces grave danger after Sri Lankan media published his photograph and what appeared to be an arrest warrant in his name.

''If he goes there, they kill him,'' his sister said in tears after being told he had been taken to the airport.

Returned refugees are regularly stopped on arrival and interrogated by the Sri Lankan police's Criminal Investigation Department.

The Herald revealed this week that some returned asylum seekers had been held for months without trial and faced state-sanctioned torture as part of their interrogation.

The man had been living with his sister in Dandenong, in Melbourne's south-east, before being called into the Immigration Department in Melbourne last Tuesday and given a letter informing him authorities had judged him ''removable''.

The sudden news of his departure yesterday morning set off a panicked bid by refugee advocates to get a court injunction - with emails showing the man had tried for two days to send a fax from within the Maribyrnong detention centre only to find the fax machine was not working.

Joel Townsend, of Victoria Legal Aid, who represented the man in the appeal to the minister, said given recent reports from Sri Lanka about the treatment of returnees, the man was considering further action.

''It is disappointing that we were not given more notice of this man's removal,'' he said.

An immigration spokesman said the man had no valid visa and had failed to leave voluntarily.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/more-may-follow-as-tamil-deported-20120725-22r28.html

Deported asylum seeker arrives in Colombo

ABC News Online
By Southeast Asia correspondent Zoe Daniel
Posted July 26, 2012 18:54:57

A Sri Lankan asylum seeker deported from Australia has landed in Colombo despite calls from the UN that his asylum application be processed before being made to leave the country.

Refugee advocates say he will be at risk of torture at home in Sri Lanka because he is accused of having links to the Tamil Tigers.

The Tamil asylum seeker was deported from Australia yesterday, but last-minute efforts to prevent his deportation failed and he was put on a plane from Melbourne to Colombo, via Bangkok.

While he was in transit, a request was issued from the Committee on Torture under the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for him not to be returned to Sri Lanka until his complaint is assessed.

However, it is believed he has landed in Colombo and was met by an Australian official while he was processed to enter the country.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-07-26/asylum-seeker-arrives-in-colombo/4157302

Fears for more deported Tamils

ABC-CAF - The World Today
Michael Vincent
Friday, July 27, 2012 12:26:00

ASHLEY HALL: Refugee supporters and human rights groups have condemned the deportation of a Tamil asylum seeker from Australia to Sri Lanka.

Dayan Anthony is the first Tamil to be returned since the end of the civil war.

After at least a dozen hours of questioning at the airport, Mr Anthony fronted a government press conference to declare he was safe.

But supporters in Australia say he's still in imminent danger.

Michael Vincent reports.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Dayan Anthony arrived in Colombo and into the arms of Sri Lanka's Criminal Investigation Department.

He's quoted in The Australian newspaper as saying:

DAYAN ANTHONY, THE AUSTRALIAN (voiceover): I am okay, I feel okay. When I was flying here I felt I would be tortured and beaten up but I am okay.

There's a fear psychosis that's created that when you come to Sri Lanka you will be hung up and beaten. But I was taken to the fourth floor and given a cup of tea.

MICHAEL VINCENT: And in The Sri Lankan newspaper the Daily News quotes him as saying.

DAYAN ANTHONY, DAILY NEWS (voiceover): I was handcuffed and beaten by the Australian authorities. Sri Lanka has become the safest place on the earth after the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) was wiped out from the country. I did not face any type of harassment at the hands of Sri Lankan authorities after I returned to the country.

MICHAEL VINCENT: All of this with government officials by his side after a reported 14 hours in custody being questioned.

Dr Graham Thom is from Amnesty International.

GRAHAM THOM: When Australia returns people, if somebody is not viewed as being in need of protection, they really need to be returned in safety and dignity and this just shows the level of scrutiny I think the Sri Lankan authorities are paying to people who are being returned from countries like Australia.

MICHAEL VINCENT: His supporters and refugee advocates in Australia said he would face torture and imprisonment on return and that obviously hasn't happened at this stage.

GRAHAM THOM: Well, I think what's really troubling is that he's been identified, this Sri Lankan authorities know who he is, and really what happens to him next is where the concern lies and the reality is we know that other people who have been returned, you know, we've seen recent reports where others who have been returned have faced imprisonment and torture.

MICHAEL VINCENT: There was an attempt by the United Nations to stop Mr Anthony's deportation to Sri Lanka, but a spokesman for the Immigration Department says, "In this instance timing and practicalities precluded such consideration".

Supporters of Mr Anthony in Australia now fear he is the first of many Tamils to be returned to Sri Lanka.

Dr Bala Vigneswaranis from the Australian Tamil Congress.

BALA VIGNESWARAN: I can tell you we got streams of phone calls when this young man was returned. A couple of them were crying saying that, look, my tears is real. I'm a real refugee, look at this guy, he was a real refugee as well. Now he has been returned, what is going to happen to me? So we are worried about their well-being, yes but are we worried about return, we believe we can go back to the Australian Government and convince them that the Sri Lankan situation is not ready to receive more people back from this country.

MICHAEL VINCENT: But the Sri Lankan government has rejected any concerns about their treatment of Mr Anthony or Tamils in general.

The ambassador to Australia is Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe:

THISARA SAMARASINGHE: What I said on the television and radio, persecution harassment is not true. That is unfortunate such things happen. When a person comes ...

MICHAEL VINCENT: Are you saying that, are you saying that no Tamils are persecuted in your country?

THISARA SAMARASINGHE: No, I mean I don't say it is Tamil. Any person who has criminal activity, allege of criminal activity, the law of the land will prevail but just a person who broken the immigration laws come to Australia and send back to Sri Lanka, there will be no persecution. He will be allowed to go to his family after checking in with the detail. That is the system that the Sri Lanka follows.

MICHAEL VINCENT: But human rights organisations, Amnesty International among them, have regularly and repeatedly criticised the Sri Lankan government for human rights abuses, for not investigating torture, for intimidating Tamils and others.

THISARA SAMARASINGHE: Whether it is Tamil or anybody who thieve, if he has committed offence he will be subject to law of the land. There is no human rights abuse. So the mechanisms are in place, a transparency in place and thank you very much for this opportunity.

ASHLEY HALL: Sri Lanka's ambassador to Australia Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe ending Michael Vincent's report.

http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2012/s3554856.htm

MEDIA RELEASE: Tamil refugee under duress - deportee is not out of danger

Friday July 27, 2012
Ian Rintoul
Refugee Action Coalition
mobile 0417 275 713

The Refugee Action Coalition has welcomed the release of Tamil asylum seeker Dayan Anthony from custody in Sri Lanka, but has rejected reports that Dayan's recanting his claim of torture as a product of duress.

"After 16 hours of questioning without legal representation by the Sri Lankan CID, comments at Dayan's press conference cannot be considered to be freely given. The CID has the power of life or death over the people they question. It is highly likely that his recantation was a condition of him being released at all," said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

"There is too much evidence both of Dayan's mistreatment and the reports of torture of other Tamils for the comments at the press conference to be believable. Human Rights Watch reports that are more than a dozen cases of asylum seekers tortured after being returned from Britain.

"Reports of Dayan's comments such as, 'Sri Lanka has become the safest place on the earth after the LTTE was wiped out from the country,' smack of a script prepared by the CID for its own propaganda purposes.

"We are calling on the Australian government officials to publicly report what they witnessed at Dayan's questioning and to explain why they were not present for the entire interrogation.

"We do not believe that Dayan is out of danger. In other cases, returned asylum seekers have been subjected to harassment and imprisonment months after being returned. Indeed, the families of asylum seekers and refugees are being harassed years after the their relatives have fled Sri Lanka for Australia.

"We are calling on the Australian government to call a halt to all forced deportations to Sri Lanka. The concerns of the UN regarding Dayan and the threat of torture in Sri Lanka need to properly investigated.

"The stage-managed show of Dayan's press conference has only added to doubts that surround the Rajapaksa regime and added to our fears for the safety of Dayan and other Tamils deported to Sri Lanka. The Australian government must put an immediate halt to forced removals."

For more information contact Ian Rintoul, mob 0417 275 713

Fears for Tamil deported from Australia

ABC News Online
First posted July 27, 2012 09:09:28
Updated July 27, 2012 10:32:48

Refugee advocates fear a Tamil asylum seeker deported from Australia has been detained by Sri Lankan authorities.

On Wednesday the man was put on a flight from Melbourne via Bangkok to Colombo, despite a last-minute appeal from the United Nations that he not be returned to Sri Lanka.

Known as Mr X for safety reasons, he fled Sri Lanka, saying he had been arrested by the army and tortured due to alleged links with the Tamil Tigers, and had been in Australia seeking asylum since 2010.

But he was deported on Wednesday after the Federal Government ruled that the process had been exhausted.

Refugee Action Collective spokeswoman Sue Bolton says the man's family in Sri Lanka waited for more than 14 hours outside the airport but were given no news about him.

She says they are concerned he has been detained by Sri Lankan police.

"They fear the worst, they fear torture, they fear interrogation, they fear indefinite detention, they fear just straight out disappearance," she said.

"There have been many, many Tamils who have just simply disappeared since the end of the war."

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen's office has released a statement saying: "The individual has been through an exhaustive assessment process, which is specifically designed to take into account any risk on return to Sri Lanka. That process has determined the individual does not engage Australia's protection obligations."

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says Australian authorities did the right thing in returning the man to Sri Lanka.

"The process is designed to ensure that people make an assessment about whether people would face execution and the process run by the Government found that not to be the case," he said.

"So if the person is not a refugee, then they should be returned."

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-07-27/fears-for-tamil-deported-to-sri-lanka/4158212

Deported Tamil recants tales of torture

Amanda Hodge in Colombo
The Australian
July 28, 2012 12:00AM

Exhausted and showing the strain of a horror week of deportation and interrogation, Dayan Anthony presented just the sobering warning he was intended to be as he fronted a Sri Lankan government media conference to warn of the repercussions of asylum-seeking.

In sweat top and pants, his eyes red and hooded with fatigue after 16 hours of questioning, he told a sparse gathering of journalists: "Don't believe what agents say. You get tempted when people tell stories in Australia about how you can get rich but the boys who go over there will return in handcuffs.

"I want to tell Tamils registered as asylum-seekers in Australia they can safely return because I also returned."

It could not have been scripted better had it been written by the best propagandists of the Australian or Sri Lankan governments.

In the federal government's war on people-smuggling, Mr Anthony is a serious shot across the bows of the king pins, whose message that hope and opportunity is a mere boat ride away has gained traction in the trouble zones of South Asia.

Mr Anthony became the first Tamil asylum-seeker to be deported from Australia since the end of the island nation's 27-year civil conflict when he arrived at Colombo airport at 12.45am on Thursday and was handed to Sri Lankan immigration officials.

Less than 24 hours later he had been released from police custody to face the media, where he publicly recanted all claims of torture and mistreatment by Sri Lankan authorities and confessed he had lied to Australian officials, UN representatives and refugee advocates in order to obtain a refugee visa.

He also insisted he had been treated well by Sri Lankan police since his arrival, despite the fears of his Melbourne-based sister and brother-in-law and refugee advocates that his life would be in danger if he was returned to Sri Lanka.

In an interview with The Weekend Australian, conducted afterwards in an empty Colombo restaurant in the presence of a senior Defence Ministry official who, we were told, was helping him find accommodation, Mr Anthony insisted he was "OK" and "a free man".

"I had an Australian dream. I came here in fear but now I feel OK," he said. "I feel Sri Lanka is safe now. War is over. I don't think anything will happen to me."

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said Mr Anthony was not being held by Sri Lankan authorities and his situation continued to be monitored.

The government returned Mr Anthony last Wednesday -- ignoring an 11th-hour attempt by the UN Human Rights Commissioner to stop his deportation in Bangkok -- saying he had exhausted all legal and ministerial avenues in a 27-month campaign for refugee status.

He denied he had been pressured to recant, but the Australian Tamil community has warned there is something strange about his decision to renounce his past claims of torture at the hands of the Sri Lankan government.

Australia Tamil Congress spokesman Bala Vigneswaran said he was concerned Mr Anthony may have been coached by Sri Lankan authorities during his marathon interrogation.

"They coach people before they put people to public media," he said. "It should look obvious to normal thinking people, that this sounds fishy.

"When you read through the lines, you can see there are issues. And why would you need 16 hours for interrogation, if the person is making up stories?"

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul also expressed scepticism: "I think it's fairly clear that any recantation is a result of duress."

Mr Anthony, 30, had claimed to have been kidnapped and tortured in 2009 after he was seized and thrown into the back of one of Sri Lanka's notorious white vans used in disappearances.

He also complained of severe back pain from beatings sustained in Sri Lankan custody -- a diagnosis supported by a Melbourne specialist -- and gave evidence to the UN special rapporteur on torture late last year. Before his deportation he was receiving treatment for mental health issues.

Asked about his conditions, he told The Weekend Australian: "I don't have a back problem. I don't have psychological problems. I'm OK. I feel OK.

"When I was flying here I felt I would be tortured and beaten up but I am OK.

"There's a fear psychosis that's created that when you come to Sri Lanka you will be hung up and beaten. But I was taken to the (Colombo CID's notorious) fourth floor and given a cup of tea."

Mr Anthony said he had been advised by a Malaysian Tamil people-smuggling agent, who arranged the forged passport for his April 2010 flight to Melbourne, to tell Australian officials he had been kidnapped in a white van and that he had links with the vanquished Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

"The agent told me if I said that they would give me a visa. Everybody was fleeing to go to Australia. A lot of people lied to get the visa. People come with hope because people-smugglers say they will get visas but nothing happens."

He said Australia's swelling ranks of Sri Lankan asylum-seekers should return voluntarily, rather than be forced back in handcuffs as he had been, and offered a swollen wrist as evidence he had been roughed up by Australian immigration officials.

"The Australian authorities behaved very badly. Even though they're signed to international human rights (agreements) they did this to me. They put me in handcuffs. They did not allow me any fax or phone because otherwise I would contact people. They wanted to send me as an example," he said.

"There's no justice in Australia. This is just a political problem for them. This will happen to every person. They will interview and reject you.

"In future they will deport a lot more asylum-seekers in handcuffs. I feel Australia are (sic) racists and still it is for white Australians only."

When asked what the future held for him, the former textiles trader admitted he had no concrete plans beyond "sleeping for 5000 hours" and finding a job -- perhaps abroad.

"The future for everybody is suspicious," he said. "Tomorrow we don't know what will happen."

www.theaustralian.com.au/.../deported-tamil-recants-tales-of-torture/story-fn59niix-1226437204627

Tamil man Dayan Anthony questioned, recants on torture claims

Amanda Hodge in Colombo
The Australian
July 27, 2012 3:02pm

The first Tamil asylum seeker to be deported from Australia since the end of Sri Lanka's 27-year civil conflict has recanted all claims of torture and mistreatment by Sri Lankan authorities in a government press conference held less than 24 hours after arriving back in Colombo.

Dayan Anthony was released from Sri Lankan police custody early Thursday evening after more than 16 hours straight of interrogation, and just in time to front a media conference to warn of the dangers of getting involved with people smugglers.

An exhausted Mr Anthony insisted he had been well-treated by Sri Lankan police, despite fears held by his Melbourne-based sister and brother-in-law as well as refugee advocates that his life would be in danger if he was returned to Sri Lanka.

The federal government deported Mr Anthony last Wednesday, ignoring a last-ditch attempt by the UN Human Rights Commissioner to stop his deportation in Bangkok, saying he had exhausted all legal and ministerial avenues in a 27-month campaign for refugee status.

The Australian Tamil community has warned there is something strange about Mr Anthony's decision to renounce his past claims of torture at the hands of the Sri Lankan government.

Australia Tamil Congress spokesman, Dr Bala Vigneswaran, expressed deep concern at the situation and suggested Mr Anthony had clearly been coached by the Sri Lankans during the marathon interrogation.

"They coach people before they put people to public media," he said. "It should look obvious to normal thinking people, that this sounds fishy."

"When you read through the lines, you can see there are issues. And why would you need 16 hours for interrogation, if the person is making up stories?"

Mr Anthony, 30, had claimed to have been kidnapped and tortured in 2009 after he was seized and thrown into the back of one of Sri Lanka's notorious white vans used in many disappearance cases.

He had also claimed to suffer severe back pain as a result of beatings sustained in Sri Lankan custody and had even given evidence to a hearing by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture late last year.

But yesterday, under the gaze of Sri Lankan government officials, he withdrew all claims of torture and mistreatment, saying he had lied on the advice of a Malaysian Tamil people smuggling agent in order to secure a refugee visa.

Mr Anthony told The Australian last night: "I don't have a back problem. I don't have psychological problems. I'm okay. I feel okay."

"When I was flying here I felt I would be tortured and beaten up but I am okay.

"There's a fear psychosis that's created that when you come to Sri Lanka you will be hung up and beaten. But I was taken to the (notorious Colombo CID's) fourth floor and given a cup of tea."

Mr Anthony lashed out at Australian authorities however for their disregard of their international human rights obligations, accusing immigration officials who accompanied him from Melbourne to Colombo of roughing him up.

He said Australia was a racist country and that the white Australia policy remained a truism.

Spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul, said the sudden renouncement by Mr Anthony of his past claims was "suspicious'.

"I think it's fairly clear that any recantation is a result of duress," he said.

www.theaustralian.com.au/../tamil-man..recants-on-torture-claims/story-fn9hm1gu-1226436367903

Sri Lanka applauds Tamil's return

The Age
July 28, 2012
Daniel Flitton

Sri Lanka has turned the forced deportation of a Tamil asylum seeker from Australia into a propaganda triumph to boast the country has never been more safe.

The man was held for about 16 hours for questioning by a local security agent after arriving in Colombo, only to emerge and conduct a media conference alleging he was handcuffed and beaten by Australian authorities.

Immigration authorities in Australia claim a last-minute United Nations plea to stop his deportation on Wednesday and to look further into claims he faces torture came too late. He is the first Tamil asylum seeker to be forced out of Australia since 2008 when the latest spate of arrivals began - with up to 150 others also facing involuntary deportation having almost exhausted all refugee appeals.

The man - Dayan Anthony, whom The Saturday Age chose not to identify before now at his family's request - was seated before cameras and microphones at an event organised by Sri Lanka's government information department. He told local reporters he had lied about his asylum claims and that a people smuggler had given him a forged visa, telling him to pretend he had been a separatist Tamil Tiger fighter during Sri Lanka's vicious civil war. He also withdrew claims he was suffering mental illness or back problems as a consequence of past torture.

But refugee advocates have cast doubt on the authenticity of his statement and the Immigration Department denies he was mistreated.

Mr Anthony had arrived in Melbourne in 2010 by plane seeking asylum and lived with his sister and brother-in-law in the suburb of Dandenong. But last week he was told the Immigration Department had deemed him ''removable'' after being refused a refugee visa.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/sri-lanka-applauds-tamils-return-20120727-2302l.html

Sri Lanka wants asylum seekers returned

AAP / news.com.au
July 28, 2012 3:00AM

Sri Lanka wants Australia to send back asylum seekers in large numbers, saying this will deter people smugglers.

Senior Sri Lankan naval officials have also asked for the loan of a boat to bolster patrol operations in an area people smugglers are known to travel through.

Sri Lankan naval operations director Commodore N. Attygalle said the country would have no problem helping Australia turn boats around - as proposed by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott - but its small navy needed assistance and extra resources to do so.

"If (Australia) turns the boats around, then these guys will just pull the plug, the boats will start sinking and you will have to assist them because it's in your waters," he told The Weekend Australian.

"So the best way is deportation."

Commodore Attygalle explained that his country's navy was too small at the moment to deal with the problem and needed the loan of ocean-going operational vessel to extend the range of its patrols.

Naval intelligence director Nishantha Ulugetenne has called for more cooperation between Australian and Sri Lankan immigration, customs and border protection services.

"When you start deporting, then this problem will ease for us," Commodore Ulugetenne said.

"Sending just one man back from Australia will not help. More than 1500 Sri Lankans have landed in Australia in the last six months. What are you going to do with them? Screen them one by one?"

www.news.com.au/.../.../sri-lanka-wants-asylum-seekers-returned/story-e6frfku9-1226437278571

Record for Sri Lankan arrests

July 30, 2012
The Age
from AFP, AAP

Sri Lanka's navy arrested a boatload of people heading to Australia and raised the number of would-be illegal immigrants detained this month to a record 500, according to an official.

A fishing trawler carrying 31 people was intercepted off the island's western coast on Saturday, and another 20 were arrested on shore ready to board the boat, the navy official said.

''We had the highest number of arrests this month,'' said the official, who asked not to be named. ''We stopped eight trawlers off the eastern coast and three off the western coast as they set off for Australia.''

The official said that compared with 200 people arrested between May and June, the July arrests were the highest on record over a month.

Most of the would-be illegal immigrants had paid up to 300,000 rupees ($A2220) as an advance for the perilous journey and were to give an additional 400,000 rupees on reaching Australian shores, the official said.

The boat people had been handed over to the police Criminal Investigations Department for questioning.

Most wanted to claim political asylum in Australia, the official said.

Australia is facing a steady influx of asylum seekers arriving by boat, many using Indonesia as a transit hub, and boarding leaky wooden boats.

But there has been a recent spike in the number of attempted crossings from Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, a second boatload of asylum seekers was intercepted on Saturday, Border Protection Command said. A boat carrying 49 people was intercepted north-west of the Cocos Keeling Islands. It was intercepted by ACV Hervey Bay after being detected by a RAAF maritime patrol craft.

The passengers were transferred to Australian government authorities on Cocos Island and will be sent to Christmas Island for health, security and identity checks.

Earlier on Saturday a government patrol boat intercepted a boat carrying 15 passengers and two crew east of Browse Island off the Kimberley coastline. They were transferred to Broome initially and are being sent to Darwin detention centre for security, health and identity checks.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/record-for-sri-lankan-arrests-20120729-236eo.html

Tamil activists would pay to ship refugees

The Age
July 30, 2012
Daniel Flitton

Community activists would pay for United Nations sanctioned refugees to be safely shipped to Australia and deprive people smugglers of customers under a radical pitch to the Gillard government's expert panel on border protection.

The plan, aimed at ethnic Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka, comes as a boat carrying 15 people slipped past navy patrols on the weekend and put out a distress call about 150 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia. Another boat with 49 passengers was later spotted near Cocos Island.

The Coalition seized on the rare arrival near the mainland to criticise Labor over the strain on border patrols. The tally of asylum seeker arrivals over the past two months is among the highest on record, with boats increasingly calling for rescue after two vessels sank in June, leaving about 90 dead.

The plan to fund ''free, safe transport'' was presented by Tamil organisations to Prime Minister Julia Gillard's hand-picked experts charged to find a circuit-breaker to the impasse around asylum seekers.

The panel, led by former defence chief Angus Houston, will be hard-pressed to move all political sides beyond the deadlock, with little sign of common ground despite negotiations in recent weeks.

The submission, whose authors include Tamils Against Genocide, blames the recent increase in boats leaving Sri Lanka on human rights abuses aimed at the Tamil minority, despite the end of the civil war three years ago.

About 1300 Sri Lankans have reportedly reached Australia this year on boats - about 20 per cent of more than 6500 asylum seekers to arrive.

''Tamils face persistent risk of arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention, disappearance, extra-judicial killing and severe and punishing restrictions,'' the submission reads. ''We see little possibility for a reduction in outward refugee flows. In other words Tamils in large numbers will continue to seek ways, safe or unsafe, to leave the island.''

In the submission the Tamil organisations offer to fund free passage on ships to Tamils with UN refugee status. ''[This] will undermine and help contain the problem of abusive and exploitative people smugglers and the risks to personal and international security their activities entail.''

But the submission acknowledges any plan to fund ships to bring refugees to Australia would need a change to anti-people-smuggling laws - a shift unlikely to win political backing.

Sri Lanka's high commissioner to Australia, Thisara Samarasinghe, dismissed claims that people were fleeing human rights abuses in his country.

He told The Age that racketeers were offering people passage to avoid Australia's strict standards for legal entry and coaxing people to lie about oppression. He had been in Sri Lanka a fortnight ago and met a group of people who had been taken off a boat about to leave for Australia near the eastern harbour Trincomalee.

''These people were not going because of any atrocities or anything, but they were going for a better life,'' he said.

Admiral Samarasinghe said rebuilding and clearing of minefields was well under way in former separatist Tamil Tiger strongholds in Sri Lanka's north and east.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/tamil-activists-would-pay-to-ship-refugees-20120729-236es.html

Tamil returned after Sri Lanka complaint

Amanda Hodge, Colombo
The Australian
July 31, 2012 12:00AM

THE first Tamil man to be deported from Australia since the end of the Sri Lankan war was returned a week after Sri Lanka's navy chief complained to Australia's high commissioner of double standards in the treatment of Sinhalese and Tamil asylum-seekers.

The Australian has learned that a reported clash between High Commissioner Robyn Mudie and Vice-Admiral Somathilake Dissanayake at a July 18 meeting in Colombo was sparked by accusations the federal government's favourable treatment of Tamils over Sinhalese was encouraging the continued movement of boats.

Tamil asylum-seeker Dayan Anthony had been in the care of his Melbourne-based sister and brother-in-law since December 2010 and his family have claimed that notice of his deportation, and his removal back into detention last week, came without warning.

Senior Sri Lankan navy officials said yesterday they believed the conversation between the navy chief and the commissioner might have contributed to Mr Anthony's deportation.

Ms Mudie told The Australian yesterday she was unable to comment on official meetings.

But a spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship told The Australian yesterday that Mr Anthony's removal had been "under way for weeks".

"These are very, very long processes. They do not happen in a matter of days. We need to get travel documents and flight clearances. We need to make sure the escorts are available. This is a removal that had been planned for many weeks."

Sri Lankan navy operations director N. Attygalle confirmed to The Australian the navy chief had raised the issue with Ms Mudie at their meeting two weeks ago, where the two are also reported to have traded barbs over failures by both sides to fully co-operate to stamp out people-smuggling.

"I am sure your high commissioner here in Colombo must have taken it seriously because it is the commander making the accusation," Commodore Attygalle said yesterday.

"Maybe that was one of a number of contributing factors (that led to his deportation)."

But Commodore Attygalle added that the federal government still needed to show more mettle on returning failed Tamil asylum-seekers, and that deporting just one man was little more than a token measure that would not stop the boats.

"Ninety-nine per cent of (Sri Lankan) asylum-seekers to Australia are Tamils so they needed to signal that they will not be accepted.

"It is a token measure your government has done but I think it's not really going to suffice."

Mr Anthony flew back into Colombo early Thursday morning in the custody of Australian immigration officials and was handed over to the Sri Lankan authorities. He was held for questioning for 16 hours before fronting a government press conference to recant all previous claims of torture against authorities there.

Sri Lanka's Tamil minority have complained of their systematic persecution by Sinhalese-dominated governments since the island nation gained independence from Britain in 1948.

While the Sri Lankan government is now de-mining and funnelling development money to the war-ravaged and former Tamil Tiger-held north, the UN said last November it was still "seriously concerned about the continued and consistent allegations of the widespread use of torture" in police custody.

This week, Tamil diaspora communities across the world mark the 29th anniversary of the 1983 riots -- know as Black July -- where hundreds of Sri Lankan Tamils were killed in violence triggered by reports of Tamil Tiger attacks against the military in the north.

Until early 2010, more than six months after the Sri Lankan military vanquished the Tamil Tiger resistance in a bloody final crackdown in the country's north, Australia prioritised acceptance of Tamil refugees. But in April of that year then prime minister Kevin Rudd suspended for three months all Sri Lankan asylum applications while Australia considered the "changed circumstances" in that country.

A number of Sri Lankans have been deported since war ended in May 2009, and at least one remains behind bars in Sri Lanka on people-smuggling charges, but Mr Anthony is understood to be the first Tamil.

Refugee advocates in Australia say there are as many as 150 more Sri Lankan Tamils in detention who have exhausted their avenues of appeal and could face deportation in coming months.

Sri Lankan authorities say that they have detained more than 500 would-be asylum-seekers this month -- the highest number on record.

Two more boats carrying a total of 69 Sri Lankans were intercepted early on Monday morning attempting to leave from the western port of Negombo.

www.theaustralian.com.au/.../tamil-returned-after-lanka-complaint/story-fn9hm1gu-1226438927086

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