No return to Sri Lanka undertaking a small win for human rights: now bring the boats back

| July 8, 2014 | Reply

“The government’s undertaking not to return 153 Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka is a small win for human rights from a government that has systemically violated the human rights of asylum seekers,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The government did everything it could to hide its illegal mistreatment of the asylum seekers it had intercepted on the high seas. But the action in the High Court has blown a huge hole in the culture of secrecy that has been assiduously cultivated by the Minister Scott Morrison.”

“It is now clear that 41 asylum seekers may have been unlawfully handed to the Sri Lankan police two days ago. The government must guarantee their safety and welfare in Sri Lanka.

“The second thing is that the 153 asylum seekers must be released from the Customs prison ship that they are presently being held on. It is possible that they have already been held for days in shocking conditions on the high seas. The High Court case could take weeks or even months. The asylum seekers must be brought to Australia or placed under the care of the UNHCR.

“The third thing is that the dubious issue of ‘screening out’ will no longer be an issue considered by the High Court in this case. But screening out is an unlawful practice routinely used by the Immigration Department to prevent asylum seekers even making a protection claim. Hundreds of Tamils and other asylum seekers have been sent back to danger under this shocking practice. Screening out must be ended.

“Lastly, there is the possibility of a third boat. The government’s undertaking not to send people to Sri Lanka simply raised the legality of all the government’s interceptions outside the migration zone. Scott Morrison must reveal all the details of the asylum seekers being held on navy or Customs boats.”

“The High Court action only happened because refugee advocates and Tamil community members managed to get the names and details of asylum seekers on the boat. The government’s culture of secrecy must be ended. The government’s attempt to undermine democratic rights goes hand in hand with its abuse of the rights of asylum seekers.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

Category: Press releases

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