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Thailand holding over 100 Tamil asylum seekers: police

[AFP, Wednesday, 13 October 2010 16:54 One Comment]

Thailand is holding 128 Tamil migrants for possible deportation even though some have registered with the United Nations as asylum seekers, authorities said Wednesday.

Police originally arrested 155 people, but some were freed because they were able to present valid travel documents, said Colonel Worawat Amornwiwat, a spokesman for the immigration service.

"These people are minority Tamils fleeing war in their country and seeking asylum through the UN. But they came to Thailand with tourist visas, allowing them to stay only 60 days, and they overstayed," he said.

Some of those arrested on Monday have papers showing that they have already applied to the UN for refugee status, police said.

Worawat said that authorities would contact the Sri Lankan embassy in order to send back those charged with breaching their visas.

He added that there was no provision for Sri Lankan refugees in Thailand, despite their registration with the United Nations. No one from the UN refugee agency was immediately available to comment.

Activists based in Canada, which has recently sought to change its immigration laws in response to the arrival of boats carrying hundreds of Tamil refugees, said those arrested in Thailand were genuinely in need of protection.

The Tamil refugees in Thailand may be persecuted if they return home and are "likely to face torture," the Canadian Tamil Congress said.

"We are very disturbed by the arrests as it includes genuine refugees seeking international protection," the group said in a statement.

Sri Lanka’s crackdown on the Tamil Tigers, which ended a lengthy civil war last year, has resulted in a flood of people seeking asylum in other countries.

A Thai state media report earlier this week said police believed the migrants could include Tiger rebels waiting to seek asylum in a third country.

But Worawat said those arrested were not members of the Tiger organisation.

[Full Coverage]

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One Comment »

  • Canuk said:

    The Canadian Tamil Congress has insisted with each of the ship arrivals that they had no prior knowledge that a ship would be heading to Canada full of asylum seekers. Even with the announcement that it was believed that more ship loads were assembling for departure from Thailand, they once again said they were not aware of any such plans.

    Yet with the announcement that their office was broken into they revealed that sensitive information was on the stolen computers including ID of the asylum seekers, even though the IRB and the Government were frantically trying to establish the ID’s of those on board. Now they say that those arrested in Thailand were genuine refugees and none are Tamil Tigers.

    If, as they say, they have no knowledge of those boarding these ships, how do they know the backgrounds of these people? The authorities really need to examine how the Canadian Tamil Congress is getting their insider information, why they are not reporting these planned smuggling trips to the Canadian authorities, and why they are not reporting Canadian Tamils who are helping to fund these trips, which in essence is supporting the human smugglers which is illegal, and how they know who is a former Tiger and who isn’t.

    As a Government subsidized non profit organization they should be made to reveal any information regarding illegal activity that they are aware of regarding human smuggling or those funding these shiploads.