Tales of fear, torture and death behind applications for refuge

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The Independent Online
It was when three of his witnesses in a case against the Sri Lankan security services were abducted and murdered that Nandakumar finally went into hiding, writes Heather Mills.

A partner in his law firm had already been killed. His female clerk had been abducted and raped - and he himself had received death threats.

Through the British High Commissioner in Colombo, he managed to obtain a visa, and fled to the UK, where he applied for asylum.

Nandakumar (not his real name) had been working as a human rights lawyer. He had defended many who had been detained under Sri Lanka's emergency legislation and he had been assisting families to search for relatives who had gone missing - believed abducted by army death squads.

In 1991 he was conducting a case against the security forces over the killing of two Sri Lankans, when three witnesses were themselves abducted, killed and their bodies dumped. He went into hiding, arrived in the UK in 1991 and was granted asylum the following year.

Yesterday another refugee from Sri Lanka, who has been given asylum and who did not want to be identified, said: "You only have to read the news to see that Sri Lanka is not safe. There is a curfew in Colombo and there is complete censorship. You do not have curfews and censorship in countries that are safe."

Mr B was arrested at his home in Nigeria and taken for questioning by the military police. He claims he was punched, kicked and whipped. Electric prods were applied to his genitals. For days on end he was starved. His crime had been to question the military government. But he was smuggled out of the country and into the UK.

Doctors from the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, who examined him this summer, have no doubt that the scars to his body bear testimony to the abuse he claims to have suffered. The man, in his late twenties, is still suffering panic attacks and nightmares. He remains fearful for his family and colleagues. No decision has yet been made on his claim for asylum.