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‘Sri Lanka: Permanent counterinsurgency, and the Tamil threat abroad’ - what Duncan Lewis Immigration Department at Dalston learned from Dr Suthaharan Nadarajah (23 November 2018)

Date: 23/11/2018
Duncan Lewis, Main Solicitors, ‘Sri Lanka: Permanent counterinsurgency, and the Tamil threat abroad’ - what Duncan Lewis Immigration Department at Dalston learned from Dr Suthaharan Nadarajah

On Thursday 22nd November 2018, Dr Suthaharan Nadarajah, of SOAS University of London, attended our Dalston office to deliver training on ‘Sri Lanka: Permanent counterinsurgency, and the Tamil threat abroad’.

Dr Nadarajah is a Lecturer in International Relations. His research interests are in International Relations theory, international security, and North-South relations, with a focus on contestations inhering in international interventions to secure peace, stability and global order. He is a reputable expert in his field and was one of the experts relied upon in the country guidance case of GJ and others (post-civil war: returnees) Sri Lanka CG [2013] UKUT 319 (IAC).

The training session was attended by supervisors, solicitors, trainees and caseworkers of our Immigration Department in Dalston, as well as a representative from Medical Justice. A similar session has also been held in our Harrow office, with equal value and success. The purpose of Dr Nadarajah’s training session was to provide a detailed understanding of insurgency in Sri Lanka today, with reference to the country’s political and historical context.

The training session was much needed and very welcome for those of our practitioners who represent Sri Lankan asylum seekers. The current Secretary of State for the Home Department (SSHD) policy and indeed the country guidance case of GJ and others provide what can be considered as a tapered approach to risk factors and categories in Sri Lanka.

Dr Nadarajah delivered his expert opinion on the following key issues which are of the utmost importance to any legal practitioner representing Sri Lankan asylum seekers:


  1. Why is the military deployed in Tamil areas, at full strength and ‘operational readiness’?

  2. Why are intelligence operations so intense?

  3. Why are protests, civil society, and community activity being surveilled?

  4. Why is detention and torture routine?

  5. Why is Tamil diaspora such a focus for Sri Lankan authorities? (What’s the exact threat?)

  6. What places a person at risk?

It is evident that, in order to fully appreciate the risk faced by our clients, we must look well beyond the boundaries of current country guidance and our government’s foreign policy. Risk factors and categories are to be determined not merely with reference to a client’s past persecution or current actions; rather, as policing appears to be in response to attitudes, as opposed to acts, we must look to the Sri Lankan government’s perception of our client, the unofficial Sri Lankan policy and the Sri Lankan government’s constitutional prohibition on advocating separatism in Sri Lanka or abroad.

It can be argued that the international spotlight has only relatively recently fixed onto the Sri Lankan government’s intolerant approach to separatism. However, there is a lot more to be done in the international community to bring the Sri Lankan government to account. The international community faces a difficult task; examples of the Sri Lankan government’s stance are as follows:

“There is only a pro-LTTE mindset among the [Tamil] people … and that will be got rid of sooner or later.”
- Law and Order Ministry, July 2018


“Allow us to solve our problems. A country’s independence is very important.”
-President Sirisena at UN, Sep 2018

With a further country guidance case pending before the Upper Tribunal (VM Sri Lanka v SSHD Tamils: membership of TGTE), one only hopes that the position of the courts and the SSHD becomes more reflective of the true undercurrents of Sri Lankan domestic and internal policy, so that we may protect the marginalised Sri Lankan asylum seekers that we represent.

We are extremely grateful to Dr Nadarajah for dedicating his valuable time and expertise.

Author, Gergana Pentcheva, attended the training session, alongside other members of the immigration department based at our Dalston office. She is a Solicitor and Supervisor in the immigration and public law departments, as well as a fully accredited Level 2 Senior Caseworker under the Law Society’s Immigration & Asylum Accreditation Scheme with DBS Enhanced status, which enables her to represent vulnerable clients such as victims of trafficking, those with mental health conditions, victims of torture and minor children.

Gergana assists both privately funded and publicly funded (legal aid) clients from the initial application stage to appeals and Judicial Reviews. She is a trained and experienced advocate, representing clients before the First and Upper Tier Tribunals of the Immigration Asylum Chamber. She has also assisted clients in respect of applications and proceedings before the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

To contact Gergana, call 020 7923 8447, or email her on gerganap@duncanlewis.com.


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