Sri Lanka Dismisses UN Criticism on Asylum Seekers!

Sri Lanka Thursday defended its deportation of asylum seekers from Pakistan and Afghanistan despite UN’s appeal to Colombo to respect international conventions.

Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) called on the Sri Lankan government to stop the deportation, reports Xinhua.

Sri Lanka began arresting asylum seekers and refugees June 9 and has since detained 214 Pakistanis and Afghans in two asylum centres, UNHCR said.

In August, Sri Lanka deported 28 people, UNHCR said in a statement, adding that the repatriation breached a “no forced return” principle.

The Sri Lankan government has insisted that the asylum seekers were encouraging criminal elements, particularly drug and people smugglers.

Colombo has also criticized the UNHRC for failing to speed up the processing of the asylum seekers, provide financial help or housing.

“We are not signatory to these conventions, so they are not binding on us,” government spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters.

He also dismissed criticism that returning asylum seekers was unacceptable, pointing out that Sri Lanka supported returning hundreds of boat people from Australia.

“How can we say that when (our) people migrate (illegally) to Australia?”

Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said the number of refugees or asylum seekers had risen by 700 percent in the 2013-14 period. By June 30, there were 1,562 asylum seekers and 308 refugees in the country.