UN guidelines on refugees 'ignored'

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The Independent Online
A TAMIL who was refused political asylum in Britain despite claiming that he was tortured by Sri Lankan forces is to be deported in apparent breach of UN guidelines.

The Home Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has suggested that David Vigna, 31, who is about to complete a prison sentence for smuggling drugs, should be returned to Colombo, after hearing that it would be unsafe for him to live in the north of the country where he was born.

The decision appears to ignore advice issued by the UN High Commission on Refugees last June. This says asylum-seekers whose applications have been turned down should not normally be sent to Colombo. Exceptions should be made only on the basis of 'such factors as the presence of close relatives and/or the duration of previous residence and/or past employment in these areas'.

Mr Vigna insists he does not fall into these categories. He has never lived in Colombo, and has no relatives there.

In 1985, as he fled to Europe, Mr Vigna was caught carrying drugs through Heathrow and given a six-year jail term with a recommendation that he be deported afterwards. Mr Clarke insists he cannot give exceptional leave to remain because of Mr Vigna's 'criminal antecedents'.

Mr Vigna says that in the early 1980s he was involved with a Tamil liberation movement, which has since allied with the government. His brother and niece are with the Tamil Tigers, who are in violent conflict with the government. He fears he will be targeted by both sides.

Last Friday, Mr Vigna failed in an attempt to challenge Mr Clarke's decision in the High Court. His only hope is a final appeal to the Home Office.