UN slams Sri Lanka over deportation of asylum seekers

COLOMBO, August 2, 2014 (AFP) – The UN refugee agency accused Sri Lanka on Saturday of failing to respect international law by deporting Afghan and Pakistan refugees before their asylum claims could be assessed. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Sri Lankan authorities arrested 214 Afghan and Pakistani nationals in an operation beginning on June 9, who are currently being held at two detention centres. Eighteen Pakistani asylum seekers have been deported in the past two days, with 10 more facing imminent expulsion, it said in a statement, in violation of its international obligations.

“UNHCR is dismayed by these actions of the government of Sri Lanka,” the statement said. “The deportation goes against the principle of no forced return, or non-refoulement, enshrined in international customary law.”

The agency added that returning an individual to a country where he or she would face a risk of torture was also prohibited under the UN’s Convention Against Torture.

Hundreds of Pakistani Christians and Afghans fleeing persecution in their countries have been arriving in Sri Lanka seeking UNHRC protection in the capital Colombo.

Sri Lanka defended the action taken agains