In its haste to be tough on failed asylum seekers the UK is ignoring torture risks

 

Share

In June 2011, a young ethnic Tamil man from Jaffna was deported to Sri Lanka by the UK Border Agency following the rejection of his claim for asylum. 

Soon after, he was taken to the police headquarters in Colombo, interrogated about his activities in London and severely tortured.

He was whipped with electric wires, suspended upside down, beaten with sand-filled plastic pipes and forced to sign a confession in Sinhala, a language he did not understand. 

In another case, a Tamil woman returned to Sri Lanka in May 2009, following the rejection of her asylum case by the UK authorities, was detained and tortured, including being sexual abused, by Sri Lankan security agents.

While sickening, these are not isolated examples. Sri Lanka's record of torturing and otherwise ill-treating members of the country's minority Tamil community is well documented, including in the UK government's annual report on human rights and democracy.

Yet disturbingly, the same UK government will today deport a group of Tamils to Sri Lanka, despite a growing body of evidence from Human Rights Watch and other organisations about the serious risks of torture facing Tamils returning from this and other countries. 

In 13 case studies published this week, Human Rights Watch found rejected Tamil asylum seekers from the UK and other countries who were subjected to arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and torture on their arrival in Sri Lanka. Each case is supported by medical documentation. 

Given that we were able to interview only a very small number of returned Tamils - those who had managed to flee Sri Lanka and find their way back to the UK - it is reasonable to assume that the problem of torture facing those returned to Sri Lanka is more widespread.

The Sri Lankan security forces have long used torture against people deemed to be linked to the Tamil Tigers. However there is now growing evidence that peaceful political activity in opposition to the Sri Lankan government from within the UK, as well as real or imputed links to the Tamil Tigers, raises significantly the risks of torture for those who return.

In its haste to be tough on failed asylum seekers, the UK government and the UK Border Agency are not giving sufficient weight to these new risk factors.  The UK should suspend today's flight and impose a moratorium on Tamil returns, pending a thorough review of UK policy in this area and the introduction of new risk assessment guidelines.

This is essential if Tamils returning from the UK are to be protected from torture and abuse at the hands of the Sri Lankan authorities.

David Mepham is the UK Director of Human Rights Watch

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in the new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power