The Victoria Refugee Action Collective released the statement below on July 27.
Distraught family members of deported Tamil asylum seeker Dayan Anthony have finally been reunited with him. Anthony was deported from Australia on July 25.
He was interrogated for 16 hours after being handed over to the Sri Lankan police intelligence unit (CID) at Colombo airport. During this time, the Sri Lankan police refused to give the family any information.
In a scene reminiscent of hostage dramas when hostages are paraded before camera and forced to say the words of their captors, Anthony was forced to address a media conference where he recanted his claims of previous torture.
Refugee Action Collective spokesperson Sue Bolton said today that she believes the statements made by Anthony in the press conference were statements made under duress.
Bolton said: “It is not surprising that Anthony agreed to the press conference after 16 hours of interrogation without any legal representation.
“It is highly likely that it was a condition of Anthony’s release that he recant about his previous experience of mistreatment and torture. It is also highly likely that he was threatened during the interrogation in order to get his agreement to recant.
“The Human Rights Watch has documented a dozen cases of asylum seekers being tortured after being deported from Britain.
“Reports of Dayan’s comments such as, ‘Sri Lanka has become the safest place on the earth after the LTTE was wiped out from the country’ sound totally unbelievable and sound like a script prepared by the CID for its own propaganda purposes.
“We are calling on the Australian government officials to publicly report what they witnessed at Dayan’s questioning and to explain why they were not present for the entire interrogation.
“Anthony’s family is now terrified for his safety. If Australia and Sri Lanka weren’t allies, the Australian government would have loudly condemned the charade of a press conference.
“The family has good reason to be afraid. In a recent case, a Tamil refugee was deported from Britain, interrogated at the airport then released, only to be re-arrested later and tortured.”
Bolton added that there were many problems with what happened to Anthony. Anthony’s sister in Melbourne wasn’t allowed to visit him before he was deported.
When his sister realized that he was being deported, the immigration department refused to reveal what flight he would be on so that he could be met by a lawyer as well as his family.
The Australian government ignored a request from the United Nations to stop the deportation while the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture investigates Anthony’s case.
Then, when the plane landed in Colombo, the Australian officials handed him to the Sri Lankan police rather than his family.
Bolton said that the Refugee Action Collective is calling on the Australian government to:
· Intervene and seek a guarantee from the Sri Lankan government that Anthony Dayan and his family not be harmed in any way.
· Seek the return of Anthony Dayan to Australia where his application for asylum can be reviewed.
· Halt all forced deportations to Sri Lanka
Bolton also said that there are problems with the asylum assessment process in Australia, if someone such as Dayan Anthony, whose life was clearly in danger in Sri Lanka, could have his asylum claim rejected.
“The treatment of Anthony since arriving in Sri Lanka demonstrates that the immigration department in Australia made a huge mistake in rejecting his claim for asylum. Tragically, rejections of asylum claims can result in a returned asylum seeker being tortured or killed.”