KUALA LUMPUR, May 28, 2014 (AFP) – The United Nations refugee agency and Human Rights Watch on Wednesday decried Malaysia’s deportation of two Sri Lankan refugees and an asylum-seeker accused of being Tamil Tiger separatists. “Malaysia’s forced return of these refugees to Sri Lanka is no free pass for torture and mistreatment,” Phil Robertson, the rights group’s deputy Asia director, said in a statement.
“Malaysia seemed more interested in burnishing its ties with Sri Lanka than honouring its obligation to protect refugees from possible persecution and torture.”
More than 140,000 refugees and asylum-seekers stay in Malaysia with at least 4,000 from Sri Lanka, according to UNHCR.
Sri Lanka’s 37-year bloody separatist war effectively ended five years ago when troops killed the leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels in a brutal assault, but sympathisers remain.
The Tamil Tigers, who were notorious for their suicide bombings, had fought for a separate homeland for Sri Lankan Tamils who account for just over 10 percent of the island’s population. Malaysian authorities sent the three men back to Sri Lanka on Monday after arresting them on May 15 on suspicion of involvement with the Tamil Tigers separatist group.