July 03, New York: The Sri Lankan government should not summarily deport members of Pakistani minorities illegally in Sri Lanka, the Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.
The New York-based rights watchdog said at least 142 Pakistanis arrested in police sweeps in Sri Lanka in June 2014 are being detained and are at risk of deportation.
The Sri Lankan Controller General of Immigration should not deport members of Pakistani minority groups until the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has had full access to them and determined their need for international protection, the organization said.
According to the HRW most of the arrested Pakistanis are members of the Ahmadiyya minority, though the detainees also include Christians and Shia Muslims. UNHCR has not had access to the detainees, who are being held in the Boosa detention center, although the UNHCR has recognized at least six of the group as refugees.
Immigration Controller Chulananda Perera has said that there is no hindrance for the Sri Lankan government to deport the Pakistani refugees who are illegally residing in the country since the government had not granted permission to register these immigrants as refugees.
However, the UNHCR has said that any deportation would be in violation of international law.
"Sri Lankan authorities are threatening Pakistani minority group members with deportation at the very time when persecution of these groups is escalating in Pakistan," said Bill Frelick, refugees director. "Preventing asylum seekers from lodging claims in no way absolves Sri Lanka from its duty not to return them to possible persecution."
Citing security concerns Sri Lankan authorities on June 9 have begun sweeping the Pakistani minority neighborhoods in Negombo, which has been a haven for minority refugees from Pakistan. The UNHCR last year has registered nearly 1,500 refugee claims of Pakistanis in Sri Lanka.
The local people believe the Pakistani refugees are the cause for religious discord in Sri Lanka as their presence is encouraging the extremist Buddhist groups.
The HRW says members of the Ahmaddiya, Christian, and other religious minority communities are at acute risk of violent persecution and discrimination in Pakistan.
"Sri Lankan authorities should know that Pakistan fails to protect its minority communities from persecution," Frelick said. "Sri Lanka must honor its international obligations, and allow UNHCR access to ensure that no detainee is deported to face the risk of persecution or torture."