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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2764

Over 100 Sri Lankans detained in Bangkok

Bangkok, 19 July, (Asiantribune.com): Sri Lankan nationals, Tamils as well as Sinhalese, are rounded up in Bangkok and held in the Immigration Detention Centre. It is learnt that several Sri Lankan women and children too are languishing in the detention centre. According to available information they have been detained arbitrarily without producing them before a court.

Sources in Bangkok told Asian Tribune that more than 120 Sri Lankan nationals are held in the detention centre.

Kitty McKinsey, UNHCR’s Public Relations and Information Officer for Asia based in Bangkok, told Asian Tribune, according to their information, there are more than 100 Sri Lankans in the detention centre.

Wimal de Silva, Charge de Affaires of the Sri Lanka Embassy in Bangkok told Asian Tribune that at one stage there were more than 90 Sri Lankan held in the detention centre. He said the figure must have gone up as the Thai Immigration has arrested more Sri Lankans since of late.

According to Sri Lanka Embassy in Thailand, majority of those held in the immigration detention centre are Tamils and about 10 to 15 are Sinhalese.

Sri Lanka Embassy told that mostly all those arrested have no visa to stay in Thailand. It is further said that some of them have entered illegally into Thailand.

Asian Tribune further learnt that almost all of them held in the detention centre have applied for refugee status and obtained either refugee status or else they have status as “Persons of Concern to UNHCR.”

Sri Lankan Embassy said Thai Immigration has sent passports held by many of those arrested people for verification by the Embassy and the process is not complete yet.

According to sources in Bangkok, normally UNHCR issues certificate to those persons accepted by them either as ‘Refugees’ or else as ‘Persons of Concerns.’ Also it is learnt even those who have applied for refugee status and waiting for results too are issued with letters.

The UNHCR in its certificate issued to those whose status are accepted is as follows: ,

“To Whom it may Concern,

This is to certify that the above mentioned Sri Lanka national/s are considered as refugees under the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees and are accordingly, deserving the international protection provided by the High Commissioner.

Any assistance provided to this family during their stay in Thailand would br greatly appreciated.”

Sources said that normally Thai Immigrations accepts those letters and do not prosecute them for overstaying their visas.

But the Thai Immigration has now taken a tough approach and refused to accept those with the certificate provided by the UNHCR. It is now reported that they are arrested and kept in detention centres.

When asked why Thai immigration refused to show favorable consideration to the UNHCR certificates, Kitty McKinsey of the UNHCR said this question has to be addressed to the Thai Government and not to UNHCR.

She further said, “We (UNHCR) have no access to those Sri Lankans who are presently in the detention centre.”

She said that there are about 1663 urban refugees registered with the UNHCR as of 30 June 2007. She said 16 % percent of those registered refugees are Sri Lankans

When asked whether UNHCR has made any arrangements to send them to a third country for resettlement, she said that those urban refugees registered with them cannot be given legal status in Thailand to stay permanently and they cannot be sent back to their respective countries of origin, as they have expressed fear of harassment, persecution and their lives are threatened in their countries. Therefore she pointed out, all those urban refugees, majority of them are referred to many asylum giving first world countries. Now it is up to the asylum giving countries to interview them and consider them for resettlement in their respective countries.

In the meantime it is learnt last week, in Colombo, nearly 20 Thai girls, rumored to be sex workers, were rounded up by Sri Lankan immigration and deported to Thailand. Some sources believe that rounding up of Sri Lankans in Bangkok and holding them in the detention centre may be a ‘tit for tat’ act by Thailand for deporting Thai girls.

Asian Tribune referred this matter to Sri Lanka’s Acting Foreign Minister Hussaien Bhaila. He informed that he will direct the Ministry’s consular section to take appropriate action immediately.

- Asian Tribune -

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