A possie in Aussie

February 9, 2010

Up to 40,000 civilians were killed in secret in Sri Lanka

Filed under: asylum,asylum seeker,Tamils — Nayano @ 2:19 pm
Tags: , ,

It has been nearly impossible to get into Sri Lanka in the last 6 months if you are a journalist, but recently Eric Campbell from ABC TV’s Foreign Correspondent made it.

He was not, however, able to access the areas where the final offensive against the Tamil Tigers took place. He and his team tried to Jaffna but were turned back at the checkpoint despite having the right papers.

So Campbell’s is not an eyewitness account, but he did speak with a former senior UN official (anonymously)  who believes that up to 40,000 civilians were killed during this offensive that took place over five months from January to May 2009, virtually unseen by the outside world.

He also spoke to a group of 150 asylum seekers who’d tried to reach Australia. They told him that  when they go and apply for asylum in Colombo at the Australian High Commission; it’s not taken seriously at all, but that they believed there was a much better chance by boat:

“We’ve heard that the way to get into Australia is to actually reach Australian shore; that way you’re claim for asylum’s going to be taken much more seriously”.

Campbell says that you can’t say definitively that they are economic migrants or fleeing persecution.  To them it’s the same:

“They see themselves as being in a position where the war has destroyed their communities, their livelihood, and it’s also made them appear to be traitors to much of the country – particularly the military and the police who are dominated by Sinhalese, which is the main ethnic group.

“So they talk about daily harassment. They talk about not being able to get jobs; about if they get into university they can’t get jobs afterwards. They talk about their friends disappearing, being given anonymous death threats. They feel their country has no future for them, and they have to get out.” Why the Tamils want to flee

Things have changed since the Refugee Convention was drafted in 1950, and now it is difficult to distinguish refugees and asylum seekers, as defined by international instrumentalities, from undocumented migrants seeking havens from extremities not recognised in international refugee law.

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