NEW YORK: Pakistani Christian refugees seeking asylum in Sri Lanka are on the verge of being deported.
According to details provided by the Human Rights Watch, no less than 142 Pakistanis have been booked by the Sri Lankan police in June 2014 and are being locked up and are at risk of deportation. Human Rights Watch further states that: The Sri Lankan controller general of immigration should not deport members of Pakistani minority groups until the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has had full access to them and determined their need for international protection. As the data reveals most of these refugees are members of the Ahmadiyya minority, while the detainees also include Christians and Shia Muslims. UNHCR, thus far has not had access to these detainees, held in the Boosa detention centre despite the fact, that the UN refugee agency had previously accepted six of the detainees as refugees. Conversely, media reports quote the Sri Lankan Immigration Controller Chulananda Perera as saying that the government was able to deport the detained Pakistanis because it had not given them permission to register asylum claims.
Bill Frelick- Refugees Director said: Sri Lankan authorities are threatening Pakistani minority group members with deportation at the very time when persecution of these groups is escalating in Pakistan. Preventing asylum seekers from lodging claims in no way absolves Sri Lanka from its duty not to return them to possible persecution. Sri Lankan authorities should know that Pakistan fails to protect its minority communities from persecution. Sri Lanka must honour its international obligations, and allow UNHCR access to ensure that no detainee is deported to face the risk of persecution or torture. What is noteworthy is the fact that the states are subject to non-refoulement obligations under Article 16 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance which says:
1. No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”), surrender or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would be in danger of being subjected to enforced disappearance.
2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations, including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights or of serious violations of international humanitarian law.
However, regardless of noticeable persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan, the government of Pakistan has thus far given air to contempt towards these asylum seekers who are forced to flee from the country owing to the growing hostility. Moreover, a leading Pakistani newspaper quoted the Foreign Office spokesperson -Tasnim Aslam as saying: These people obtained asylum in Sri Lanka by badmouthing Pakistan. This statement gives clear indication of Pakistani Government’s stance about the persecuted asylum seekers abroad.