Sri Lanka is violating international law by deporting Pakistani asylum seekers by force and without allowing the United Nations to assess their asylum claims, the U.N. refugee agency said on Tuesday.
“Fundamentally, this is a breach of the principle of no forced returns.
That’s a clear violation of international law,” said Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR).
Sri Lanka has deported 88 Pakistanis since August 1, despite claims that they could be at risk in their homeland, Edwards said.
Starting with men who had been placed in detention, the country has widened the net to cover whole families, he told reporters.
“We are very concerned at the continued deportations that are happening. We want deportations stopped. “In all, there are now 11 women and eight children among the deported, said Edwards.
“Some of the latest deportees had their passports and asylum-seeker certificates seized last week. They were told to go to Colombo airport, where they were placed on flights to Pakistan,” he said.
He added that UNHCR staff had also heard of families being separated — including a man sent home over a week ago and whose pregnant wife remains in Sri Lanka.
According to UNHCR guidelines to countries, members of religious minorities including Ahmadiyya Muslims, Christians and Shias in Pakistan, may be in need of protection and require particularly careful examination of their asylum claims.
It said there are 157 asylum seekers – 84 Pakistanis, 71 Afghans and two Iranians – in detention in Sri Lanka.
Colombo says the influx of illegal immigrants in the past year has become a burden on the Indian Ocean island’s resources and has potentially compromised state and regional security.
Chulananda Perera, the controller of Sri Lanka’s Immigration and Emigration Department, said authorities were deporting at least 10 people every day because they had come on tourist visas and had overstayed.
Sri Lankan authorities in June canceled an on-arrival visa facility for Pakistani nationals after they said they found asylum seekers misusing the facility to enter into Sri Lanka.
Earlier this month, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry said the number of refugees or asylum seekers had risen by 700 percent in the 2013/14 period. There were 1,562 asylum seekers and 308 refugees as of June 30, it added.