UNHCR is gravely concerned about the resumption of arrests, detention and deportation of asylum-seekers and refugees in Sri Lanka.
The Government of Sri Lanka started its special operation on 9 June this year. It came to a halt on 15 August, but resumed on 3 September.
UNHCR has learnt that between 3 and 11 September, 62 Pakistani and 3 Afghan asylum-seekers were arrested and detained; 40 were subsequently deported. Since early June the authorities have arrested and detained a total of 328 refugees and asylum-seekers, and deported 183 of them to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
We believe there are still 102 people of concern to UNHCR in detention, including 38 Pakistanis and 64 Afghans.
When UNHCR met with the government earlier this month, assurances were given for the immediate release of all asylum-seekers and refugees arrested and detained since June. While we appreciate the government’s speedy action to release 71 Pakistani and 2 Iranian refugees and asylum-seekers in early September, not everyone in detention has been released and we are dismayed that the arrests, detention and deportations have resumed.
UNHCR appeals to the government to refrain from any further arrests and deportations of people of concern and to uphold its responsibilities under international law. We reiterate our call on the authorities to allow access to the detained asylum-seekers so that we can assess their international protection needs. UNHCR stands ready to work closely with the government to assist and seek durable solutions for refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.