Page last updated at 09:56 GMT, Saturday, 5 September 2009 10:56 UK

Sri Lanka Tamils fear UK deportation

By Saroj Pathirana
BBC Sinhala service

Tamil protest in London
Tamils in the UK have recently held several high profile protests

Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers in the UK have accused the British government of double standards - trying to send them back to Sri Lanka on the one hand while accusing the island's authorities of human rights violations on the other.

Nadarajah, a former Tamil Tiger rebel, says the British government tried to deport him to Sri Lanka before the High Court granted him permission to apply for a judicial review against the decision to remove him.

"My father was abducted in Colombo in 2007 while I was here. I was abducted and badly tortured while I was in Sri Lanka in 2002 and am still getting counselling and medication," he told BBC Sinhala.

Nadarajah, a resident of Velvetithurai, Jaffna, left the rebels before the abduction incident and says there are no circumstances in which he could return.

Evidence of persecution

"I can't go back. My father was abducted because of me. I still don't know where my father is. I was a member of the Tamil Tigers, so how can I go back? But the British Home Office kept rejecting my application," Nadarajah said.

The UK authorities, he says, tried to forcefully deport him to Sri Lanka last year, though he produced enough documents to prove evidence of persecution if he is made to go back. A decision on his application is still pending.

Members of the Tamil community Centre  in London
Many Tamils say that they are determined never to return

In a statement issued in July, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called on all governments not to return Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers from the north, as normality had yet to return despite the end of the war between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government.

"Notwithstanding the end of the hostilities, the human rights situation in Sri Lanka remains of concern to UNHCR," the July 2009 guideline said.

The UNHCR says the plight of nearly 300,000 internally displaced Tamils in camps near Vavuniya in the north-west in particular, "remains extremely challenging".

'No more troubles'

Tamil asylum seekers in the UK, however, are not convinced that the British authorities are abiding by UNHCR guidelines.

Thavarani Nagulendran, of the Tamil Community Centre (TCC) in Hounslow in west London, says the UK authorities deported at least 12 Sri Lankans, most of them Tamils, in July.

Tamil protest in London
The UN says deportations should be put on hold

"I am aware of at least another 50 Tamils in the UK facing deportation. They are in hiding and do not want to speak to the media for fear of deportation," she told BBC Sinhala.

The TCC provides language and legal support, counselling and other services to Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers.

"Every day, the UK authorities are sending Tamil asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka. The Home Office is telling these people that they can go back to Sri Lanka as there are no more troubles there," says Ms Nagulendran.

Sivagnanam Baheerathan, who came to the UK in 2001, says he is still being urged by the authorities to go back to Sri Lanka.

The European Court of Human Rights issued an interim order last year preventing his removal from the UK, days after the UK Border Agency tried to deport him.

"I was arrested, in October last year... and was put on a flight to Lanka. But I told them that I will commit suicide instead of going to Lanka. I tried to squeeze my neck and tried to bang my head hard... Then they brought me out of the plane," he told the BBC.

"Now I am not allowed to work. My parents and brother lived in Mallavi in Wanni, I lost contact with them for over a year… Even after the end of the war, arrests and abductions are going on. The UK government is now saying there is no problem there. But it is not the case. I may be arrested by the intelligence or rival armed groups if I go back."

The UNHCR guidelines said: "Tamils in the north are still heavily targeted in the security and anti-terrorism measures... Widescale detentions and confinement of Tamils from the north remains a serious concern."

The UK has been highly critical of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka as security forces intensified fighting against the rebels before declaring victory in May.

Yet Britain itself is accused not only of violating the human rights of Tamil asylum seekers, but sometimes even of putting their lives in danger.

The British Home Office maintains that it does not comment on individual asylum applications.

The BBC could not get a response from the Home Office despite repeated requests in relation to any of the allegations.

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