Pakistan disowns refugees in Lanka

June 23, 2014 - 8:49:30 am

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office of Pakistan has distanced itself from the reported arrests of registered Pakistani refugees and asylum seekers in Sri Lanka, but aid workers from the island nation have confirmed that Pakistani refugees are being rounded up by the authorities.

Sri Lankan daily Ceylon Today reported last week that nearly 1,500 Pakistanis, many of whom are registered with the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, have been picked up by the Sri Lankan Department of Immigration and Emigration and the Criminal Investigation Department.

According to the newspaper, these people were to be deported because of their alleged involvement in ‘anti-state activities’ in India and Pakistan.

Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam was unsympathetic to the plight of the detained refugees in Sri Lanka, saying: “These people (asylum seekers) obtained asylum in Sri Lanka by badmouthing Pakistan. If they are in trouble, I have no idea.”

“I do not know of any operation being conducted by Sri Lankan authorities against Pakistani refugees,” she added.

However, a UNHCR official in Sri Lanka, Dushanthi Fernando said, “Some 140 persons were reported to be detained at the Mirihana and Boossa detention centres. UNHCR is intervening and seeking clarification from the authorities on the reasons behind these arrests,” she said.

“As of June 9, UNHCR has been receiving reports that a number of Pakistani asylum-seekers and few recognised refugees have been arrested,” she said, adding that UNCHR had not been informed of any possible deportations.

“We continuously emphasise the importance and need for respect and observance of the principle of non-refoulement, which is a cornerstone of international refugee protection and a principle of customary international law,” Fernando said.