Tomorrow 65 Tamil refugees will be deported from the UK back to Sri Lanka. This is despite a report published yesterday which showed that Tamils who are forcibly returned are often raped – and that we know this happened in two cases from the UK.
Please sign this Avaaz petition to Stop the flight. And please read this piece by Frances Harrison on why the deportations should be stopped:
UK Deportation Flight to Include Tamil Women & Men Who Say they were Raped & Sexually Abused
Among a group of about fifty asylum seekers due to be deported from Britain to Sri Lanka on Thursday afternoon is a young woman who’s already been subjected to sexual abuse in custody and has been declared a suicide risk. Doctors who’ve examined the asylum seeker have declared her unfit to travel because of the risk she will try to kill herself again.
The woman, who was a student in Britain, says she was detained on a visit to Sri Lanka in 2011 and taken to a police station in the capital. There she describes being beaten, kicked, striped naked, burnt with cigarette butts several times on her thighs and back and having her head put inside a plastic bag full of chilli powder, before being made to sign a statement in a language she couldn’t understand. She says her interrogators wanted information about members of the Tamil diaspora and her brother who had been a member of the Tamil Tiger rebel group, defeated militarily by the Sri Lankan army in 2009.
Court documents describe this woman as very distressed and tearful, with persistent nightmares. A letter from a forensic specialist confirms she has eight burn marks on her body, which she says were made by the lit cigarettes.
Kulasegaram Geetharthanan of Jein Solicitors, which is representing some of the cases due for return, said among those facing deportation were at least two women and two men who’d been raped as well as another woman who’d suffered sexual abuse.
On Tuesday Human Rights Watch issued a shocking report detailing seventy-five cases of rape in Sri Lanka – mostly by the security forces and significant numbers well after the end of the country’s civil war. Since this data was gathered from among asylum seekers, the likelihood is this only represents the tip of the iceberg since most women are unable to flee the country. Among the cases cited by Human Rights Watch were two Tamils who’d been deported from Britain and then said they’d been subjected to sexual abuse upon return to Sri Lanka.
Frances Harrison is the author of Still Counting the Dead: Survivors of Sri Lanka’s Hidden War published by Portobello Books in 2012.