June 11, London: The British government will investigate claims that Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers are being deported from the UK back to Sri Lanka despite evidence they have been subjected to rape and sexual abuse by the country's security forces.
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague in an interview with The Guardian said the although asylum decisions were handled by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, the Foreign Office contributed to country-by-country assessments of human rights.
"We are a country that is open to asylum seekers. We uphold our standards very strictly and, whenever anyone thinks we are not doing that, we are always happy to investigate," Hague said.
"I particularly discussed with [May] already the importance, which she fully agrees with, of our immigration officers being trained in how they deal with people who have suffered sexual violence abroad.
The asylum seekers, their lawyers and the advocacy groups have made the allegations Tuesday, on the opening day of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, hosted by the UK.
Britain has been accused of hypocrisy for hosting the rape summit while deporting rape victims
According to The Guardian, lawyers even reported an acceleration of deportations of Tamils in recent weeks, which they believed has been triggered by anticipation of new Sri Lankan guidelines expected to bolster the cases of Tamil asylum seekers fleeing torture.
The Foreign Secretary promised an investigation and training for immigration officers to make them more sensitive to the plight of rape victims.
"These things are discussed across government. They will continue to be. Where people have a valid point, a valid complaint, we will take it up. This is something the whole government feels strongly about. So be in no doubt: where there are issues, we will investigate them."
Hague is co-hosting the rape summit with American actress Angelina Jolie who is serving as special envoy of the UN high commissioner for refugees.
During the interview, Jolie said she would be talking to female Tamil refugees in Britain during the four-day summit to hear about sexual violence in Sri Lanka and would raise the issue when she meets the UN High Commissioner, António Guterres, at the conference on Thursday.
A Home Office spokeswoman told The Guardian that Tamil refugees' complaints would be reviewed before commenting on their status.
The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict at the ExCel center in London from 10-12 June brings together government ministers from more than 100 countries, including the US secretary of state, John Kerry, as well as activists and aid organizations.
Read full report at The Guardian