Colombo, September 26 (newsin.asia): The Sri Lankan government, with the cooperation of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), moved 31 Rohingya Muslim refugees to the Migrants Detention Center outside Colombo in the night of Tuesday, informed sources said.
The government and the UNHCR are working together to ensure the migrants’ “safety” and that the Migrant Detention Center is in “good condition”, the sources added.
The UNHCR has called for a meeting with stakeholders in the government. The meeting could take place either on Wednesday or Thursday. The diplomatic community in Colombo will be briefed about the action taken.
The Rohingya Muslim refugees had been arriving in Sri Lanka in small numbers by air and by sea over a period of time. In May this year, 32 of them including women and children were rescued off Kankesanthurai in the northern district of Jaffna by the Sri Lankan Navy and detained. They had been transported by two Indian nationals.
The refugees were apparently living in Mount Lavinia about 10 km south of Colombo with the assistance of the UNHCR.
This month Muslim MPs and organizations asked the government to accept Rohingyas fleeing from a fresh round of violence in Rakhine State in North Western Myanmar. But Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe categorically stated that government has no intention whatsoever of allowing them in as they would be “illegal” immigrants.
He said that no foreigner can be allowed to enter Sri Lanka except with a valid visa. And since the Rohingyas are moving in groups, there are obviously racketeers involved in the movement. The government cannot encourage that, the Prime Minister said.
One of the first steps that the Sri Lankan government took when the present troubles in Myanmar started on August 25, was to deny visas to Myanmar citizens.
On September 18, a group of seven monks from Myanmar were refused visas at the Colombo airport. The Sri Lankan embassy in Yangon has been instructed to issue visas only to Myanmar’s officials. Others would have to go through a thorough screening.
Public Opposition to Rohingyas
While mainstream Buddhist-dominated Sri Lankan political parties have not expressed a view on the Rohingya issue or the question of giving them asylum or refugee status, Buddhist radical organizations have expressed opposition to allowing the Rohingyas in on the grounds that they are foreign Muslims and “radicalized” at that.
“ Having had a conflict with the Buddhists in Myanmar, they will have hatred in their hearts for Buddhists in Sri Lanka. This will create a communal conflict here,” said Opposition Member of Parliament, Udaya Prabhath Gammanpila of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya.
(The featured picture at the top shows Sri Lankan naval personnel helping a rescued Rohingya woman on to the jetty at Kankesanthurai in Jaffna,North Sri Lanka)