2ND LEAD (Asylum seekers saved from deportation)
UK Judge draws attention to Sri Lanka torture reports
[TamilNet, Thursday, 20 September 2012, 01:36 GMT]
UK Queen's Bench Administrative Court Judge, Mr CMG Oakton, while refusing to grant stay of removal of failed Tamil asylum seekers, ruling that the legal challenge has to be mounted on an "individual basis," said during an individual appeal that he is concerned with the recent reports released by Freedom From Torture, and by Tamils Against Genocide (TAG) on the likelihood of State sanctioned torture in Sri Lanka. The Case was filed at the Administrative Court Wednesday morning by TAG to stop the forced deportation of asylum seeking Tamils by the UK Government in a chartered flight scheduled to depart at 15:30 pm. Wednesday. However, The Independent reported that "[d]ozens of failed Sri Lankan asylum seekers were removed at the last minute from a controversial deportation flight today after a senior judge accepted there was a risk that they could be tortured on their return. "
The application was made based on the information contained in the recent report detailing egregious torture of 26 students and other persons returning voluntarily to Sri Lanka after spending a short period of time in Britain.
TAG challenged the UK Border Agency's presumption that forced removals are 'safe'. The judge found there is no such policy that it is safe to remove Tamils to Sri Lanka, and that all challenges have to be mounted on an individual basis, according to the released Court opinion.
A TAG spokesperson commented, "in practice this is very cumbersome and impossible for claimants without funding. As TAG's report shows the country guidance in leading UK cases is now out of date. TAG has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights seeking an urgent injunction of the flight and pursuing its right to have the 'generic issue' of safety of Tamil returnees tested in court."
Later, responding to an individual appeal, Judge Oakton said, "I
am concerned in particular by recent reports, including those from Freedom from Torture and Tamils Against Genocide, but the identified risk is to those who have an actual or perceived association (at any level) with the LTTE and are returned from the UK," according to legal sources close to the case.
While welcoming the concerns expressed by the Judge, TAG spokesperson pointed out "Sri Lankan government once described UN Commissioner Navi Pillay as a 'terrorist,' and the group of people perceived by the Rajapaksa government to be supporters of the LTTE is very wide indeed. Freedom From Torture, Channel 4 and many British Parliamentarians were also described by Sri Lanka as supporters of the LTTE. British Judges have so far failed to take these factors into asylum rulings," TAG said.