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Foreign office minister denies knowledge of torture to Sri Lankans who are being removed to their country (13 February 2013)

Date: 13/02/2013
Duncan Lewis, Legal News Solicitors, Foreign office minister denies knowledge of torture to Sri Lankans who are being removed to their country

Fifteen Sri Lankan nationals who were deported to the Island nation and returned again to the UK and claimed that they were subjected to torture and inhuman treatment were granted refugee status after they provided evidence of their torture.
In a freedom of information (FoI) request, the Home Office revealed that when the civil war in Sri Lanka was coming to an end in 2009 and September 2012, 15 failed asylum seekers managed to escape back to Britain after being removed by the agency, the UKBA.
A UK immigration solicitor said that one of his clients from the 15 who were granted refugee status had been gang raped and tortured by Sri Lankan Security services after being forcibly removed to the capital Colombo, on a specially chartered UKBA flight in 2011.
The woman, in her late 40s, is currently living in London, had told the Home Office that she was tortured and raped by security services who wanted her to reveal the whereabouts of her two sons, who had an affiliation to the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). She had escaped the country a second time by bribing officials and re-returning to Britain on a false passport.
In the summer of 2012 her account of the attacks was accepted by UK immigration courts and she won refugee status.
The stories of torture following UKBA deportation come a little over a week after the Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt told the island's BBC bureau that the UK had no direct evidence that people deported by the border agency were being tortured by Sri Lankan security services.
These comments were taken up by the Sri Lankan defence ministry which posted them on its website. Mr Alistair Burt that the issue was looked into very carefully but the UK had not found any direct evidence of torture. He said the concerns of human rights groups had not been substantiated.
Mr Burt reiterated his stand to Guardian but the Foreign Office told the Guardian that it was seeking further information from the Home Office about any allegations. Having seen the Home Office’s FOI response Burt said that he was well aware of claims of abuse but they have been widespread and few asylum seeker were given refugee status, but he said he was not aware of claims of torture were being made widely but he said he was not aware that those who returned and got refugee status had their evidence substantiated.
Keith Best, chief executive of Freedom from Torture’ who filed the FoI request said that it was beggars belief that the UK government was still prepared to forcibly evict more Tamils when its removals policy for Sri Lanka remains so out of dated, and before the judiciary, which was considering the policy right now, had a chance to rule on the matter.
He added that even those with low level LTTE links whether real or perceived were at risk of torture but their warnings were not heeded.

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