Pakistani asylum seekers in Sri Lanka claim they were forced to give bribes in order to enter the country upon arrival. These asylum seekers who at Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike International Airport, said at times immigration officers asked them for bribes in order to secure entry in the country or face deportation.
Some Pakistani asylum seekers who were forced to pay bribes; revealed that they were forced to pay between 1000 to 4000 U.S. Dollars to the immigration officers at the Bandaranaike International Airport. These asylum seekers arrived with little money in a bid to escape persecution in their home country.
The data collected in 2016, revealed that around 300 Pakistani Christians were living in Negombo. Out of these 200 Pakistani Christian asylum seekers challenged rejection of their asylum claims. Most of the Pakistani asylum seekers seek assistance from the UN refugee agency UNHCR.
Majority of the Pakistani Christian asylum seekers claim they had converted to Christianity and therefore face threats in Pakistan. Consequently, UNHCR, investigates the asylum claims. For cases found genuine, UNHCR requests different countries to take the applicants who have obtained the refugee status.
The Sunday Leader quotes a source who works with the Pakistani asylum seekers in Sri Lanka saying: “When some immigration officers find that a Pakistani has arrived to obtain asylum they are taken to a corner and asked for money. When they say they don’t have money they are waned saying they will be deported. They are then forced to part with the little money they have. The transaction also takes place away from the CCTV cameras as the immigration officers know where the cameras are fixed.”
Responding to the allegations, the Controller General of Immigration and Emigration M. N. Ranasinghe said that in case any of the immigration officers is found guilty, due action will be taken against him. He said that CCTV cameras installed on every important point at the airport. Therefore it becomes difficult for the immigration officers to take bribes at the Immigration and Emigration counter as they could easily be caught on the cameras.
He said that officers from Criminal Investigations Department (CID) are also present at the airports that perform their duties at the airport. He said that due to strict regulations relating to the immigration, it is not easy for the immigration officers to break these regulations. In case any of the officers have broken these regulation strict action will be taken against the. He said that so far, the Immigration and Emigration department has not received any complaint of alleged corrupt officers.