Failed asylum seekers flown home


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The Independent Online

A charter plane has been used to fly failed asylum seekers and foreign criminal offenders back to Sri Lanka after the failure of an 11th hour High Court bid to halt the flight.

Lawyers acting for activist group Tamils Against Genocide (Tag) argued the Government's removal policy was flawed and there was a real risk of returnees facing torture and ill treatment.

But a judge rejected the general challenge at an emergency hearing at London's High Court on Thursday, just hours before the flight was due to take off.

Mr Justice Mitting ruled the courts could only consider challenges based on individual case histories.

Today the Home Office confirmed that 55 people, among them failed asylum seekers and individuals who had committed criminal offences in the UK, had now arrived in Sri Lanka.

Human rights lawyers said there were protests and the flight was delayed, and claimed that at least 20 people had been taken off the plane after launching legal challenges to their removal by the UK Border Agency (UKBA).

A UKBA spokeswoman rejected the lawyers' assertions but could not confirm how many individuals, if any, might have avoided the flight.

The spokeswoman said: "The UK has a proud record of offering sanctuary to those who need it, but people who do not have a genuine need for our protection must return to their home country.

"We only undertake returns to Sri Lanka when we are satisfied that the individual has no international protection needs. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that not all Tamil asylum seekers require protection."