Colombo, October 9 (NIA): The need to protect Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers with links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is decreasing with the improvement in the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, says the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration, whose acronym is SEM.
“Today we acknowledge that considerable progress has been made in the area of human rights, for example in the freedom of expression and assembly. Therefore more restrictive conditions now apply for recognizing the refugee status of journalists, human rights activists and opposition politicians. And the need to protect those with a link to the vanquished Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is decreasing,” the Swiss website swissinfo.ch quotes the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) as saying.
However, the Swiss authorities still see “some gaps” in the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and therefore, each application for political asylum will be examined separately to see whether or not there is a case for admission.
In response to concerns expressed by the Swiss and Tamil human rights lobbies that those who get back to Sri Lanka will be tortured and jailed, SEM said that no one who will be tortured will be sent back.
“Individual circumstances will be taken into consideration when examining asylum requests,” the SEM assured.
“Although police violence is known to be a general problem (in Sri Lanka), no recent information is available on ill-treatment upon entry at the airport in Colombo,” the department noted.
On October 4, the Swiss Minister of Justice, Simonetta Sommaruga, signed an agreement with the Sri Lankan government to govern the repatriation of Sri Lankans who do not fulfill the conditions for continued stay in Switzerland. The agreement will enable voluntary repatriation as well as re-integration in Sri Lankan society. It will help curb human trafficking in which many Sri Lankan Tamils are involved.
Sommaruga promised further tightening of regulations based on greater progress on human rights in Sri Lanka as per the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution of October 1, 2015.
During Sommaruga’s visit to Sri Lanka last week, the Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran pleaded with her not to send Tamils back as they will be “tortured and jailed.”
It is now generally recognized that while for several decades, it was not wise for those Tamils who had fled Sri Lanka for political reasons to come back as arrest, detention or questioning was common, there is no case for any reservation now unless the returnee is a hardcore LTTE operative with a known record.
However, the Tamils would like to ensure that no one is sent back for any reason as life in Sri Lanka is not easy given the lack of economic development and absence of job opportunities for Tamils. But instead of citing valid economic reasons (officially recognized by the Swiss also), the Tamils tend to portray Sri Lanka in lurid colors which it does not deserve after the end of Eelam War IV in 2009 and especially after the exit of President Mahinda Rajapakas’s tough regime in 2015.
In a Sri Lankan Tamil population of about 50,000 in Switzerland, 3674 had been granted political asylum by May 2016. About 1613 asylum cases are under consideration. The latter face the prospect of deportation.