Diego Garcia controversy: UK quietly sends back some Lankan asylum seekers “voluntarily” as Australia issues dire warning – By Shamindra Ferdinando

Diego Garcia controversy: UK quietly sends back some Lankan asylum seekers “voluntarily” as Australia issues dire warning – By Shamindra Ferdinando

Diego Garcia controversy: UK quietly sends back some Lankan asylum seekers “voluntarily” as Australia issues dire warning - By Shamindra Ferdinando

Source : island

Global Tamil Forum skirts the issue 

The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) wouldn’t get involved in the ongoing controversy over the UK decision to move Sri Lankans, seeking to settle in the UK, to what the government called ‘a safe third country,’ unless they returned to Sri Lanka ‘voluntarily’.

About 120 Sri Lankans are believed to be housed in a fenced encampment in the US-British held Diego Garcia, part of the Chagos Islands which the United Nations ruled belonged to Mauritius and should be handed back by Dec. 2019.The UK calls the Indian Ocean archipelago the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).Those who represent the interests of the Sri Lankan group, want the UK to allow them to settle in the UK.

The Island sought the GTF’s response to the hotly disputed British move and also asked whether the issue at hand would be raised at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The GTF spokesperson, Suren Surendiran, has sent us the following response: “The GTF, as an organization that functions internationally and not specifically in a specific country as such, doesn’t usually get involved in country specific matters, outside of Sri Lanka. The GTF is predominantly an international advocacy organization. There are various country specific Tamil organizations. There are also Tamil institutions/organizations, including legal firms, acting and lobbying on immigration policies in the UK and in various other countries.”

The Maritime Law Tribunal of the United Nations, the United Nations General Assembly and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Chagos Islands belonged to Mauritius.The Guardian online edition, on Oct. 18, quoted Zehrah Hasan, an advocacy director for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, as having said: “The British government has denied Tamil refugees’ basic rights in the Chagos Islands, for over a year now. In a callous move, it looks like they may expel these same refugees to a third country, similar to the Rwanda plan.”

Hassen was referring to the UK agreement with Rwanda to accommodate those denied UK refugee status.Hassan was further quoted as having told The Guardian: “Those who’ve fled persecution must have their voices heard and their right to protection, in the UK, recognized.”

Amidst the ongoing controversy, some of those who had been ‘held’ in the disputed UK territory had chosen to return “voluntarily” to Sri Lanka in the recent past. UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Minister, Jesse Norman, recently told Parliament so far over 60 Sri Lankans voluntarily returned home.Meanwhile, Australia has reiterated that illegal Sri Lankan immigrants wouldn’t be tolerated, under any circumstances. In separate statements, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil, Australian Border Force Commissioner, Michael Outram, and Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) Joint Agency Task Force (JATF) Commander Rear Admiral Justin Jones, have issued dire warnings that those who violated their laws would be dealt with.

Flanked by Commissioner Outram and Rear Admiral Jones, Minister O’Neil declared that Australian border protection polices haven’t changed. If you attempt to reach Australia by boat, you will be intercepted and turned around and you’ll end up back in Sri Lanka far worse off than when you embarked. The only way to get to Australia, legally, is with a valid visa. “

Rear Admiral Jones said that they would detect, intercept and return anyone who takes an illegal boat journey to Australia. The top official has warned that not a single boat managed to reach Australia. Australia released footage of a youth carrying a pair of slippers disembarking from an Australian vessel that had brought back a group of people, several months ago, while warning such endeavors wouldn’t be tolerated at all.

A couple of weeks before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned, Minister O’Neil met the President and the then Foreign Minister Prof. G.L.Peiris to reiterate their insistence on OSB. In return for Sri Lanka’s cooperation, Australia has enhanced support for cash-strapped Sri Lanka and granted free fuel to its Navy and Air Force to sustain operations meant to discourage human smuggling.

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