United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities should not deport 19 Tamil refugees to Sri Lanka because they would be at serious risk of torture and persecution upon return. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has recognized all 19 as refugees, but the UAE authorities have told the group they must leave the country by April 11, 2013, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the US-based rights organization said. “For the UAE to return recognized Tamil refugees to a grave risk of torture in Sri Lanka would signal a total disregard for their well-being – and the most basic principle of international refugee and human rights law,” HRW said.
HRW has documented detailed accounts of 75 cases of alleged rape and sexual abuse from 2006 to 2012 in both official and secret detention centers throughout Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lanka’s treatment of Tamils they deem politically suspect is dismal and under no circumstances should the UAE deport this group there,” Bill Frelick, refugee program director at HRW said further.
“The principle of ‘non-return,’ which bars the forced return of refugees, is the cornerstone of worldwide refugee protection,” Frelick said. “If the UAE forcibly returns these refugees, it not only will put their lives at risk, but erode the foundation of protection for refugees everywhere.”
The 19, including six women, were part of a group of 46 Eezham Tamil asylum seekers who fled the island in October 2012, trying to reach Australia by boat. After their boat ran into trouble, they were rescued by a Singaporean ship on October 14. The 46 were taken to the port of Jebel Ali, south of Dubai, in the UAE, HRW said in its press release.