Sri Lankan court halts deportation of refugees

August 17, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

COLOMBO:  Sri Lanka’s court of appeal has ordered a halt to the deportation of Afghan, Iranian and Pakistani refugees before their asylum claims are fully assessed.  

The order came after a Pakistani woman challenged Sri Lanka’s decision to expel foreign nationals despite warnings that doing so may violate international law.

A court official said judge A W A Salam, head of the Court of Appeal, had on Friday ordered the defence ministry to suspend the deportations.

“The case will be called again on August 29,” said Lakshan Dias, a Sri Lankan lawyer representing the Pakistani petitioner. “For the moment we have stopped the refoulement (forced return).”

He said the government had deported 28 foreigners in the past two weeks and arrested another 75 and were holding them at a detention centre in the island’s south.

Another 1,800 foreigners, including Afghans, Iranians, Pakistanis and Palestinians, risked being sent back, he said.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had expressed dismay over Colombo’s arrest and deportation of dozens of foreign asylum seekers and warned that Colombo was in breach of its international obligations.

The UNHCR had said that deportations went against the principle of no forced return, or non-refoulement, enshrined in international law.