The Refugee Action Coalition released this statement on December 3.
Tamil asylum seekers at Wickham Point detention centre in Darwin staged a 24-hour hunger strike protest on December 3 in response to increasing numbers of Tamils being screened out and returned to Sri Lanka.
A plane-load of 35 mostly Tamil asylum seekers was arrested on Friday, November 30, on return to Sri Lanka and have been taken to Negombo prison, outside Colombo.
Urgent legal action is underway to prevent the deportation of more than 50 Tamils presently being held in the Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC).
Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition said: “We are urging the Minister to stop the deportation of asylum seekers to Sri Lanka. We have given the department a signed letter from 56 Tamil asylum seekers in NIDC specifically requesting protection.”
“We should have to got to court to make the government uphold its human rights obligations.”
Referring to Tamils removed on November 30, the immigration minister said, "The Sri Lankans were advised of their status and that they were subject to removal from Australia. They raised no issues that engaged Australia’s international obligations."
But evidence from asylum seekers and their families indicates that many of those returned in fact did make protection claims and expressed their fear very clearly to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship officers about returning to Sri Lanka.
A few openly told interviewing officers that they would kill themselves rather than be returned to Sri Lanka to be killed. Now the government has delivered these asylum seekers into the hands of the Rajapaksa regime, notorious for its persecution of Tamils and it abuse of human rights.
“Screening out is a travesty of justice. We are calling on the minister to stop any further deportations of screened out Sri Lankans and to end screening out, full stop. All asylum seekers should have access to independent legal advice,” said Rintoul.
“We also need an independent investigation into the government’s use of screening out procedures to deny protection to genuine asylum seekers.”