Oct 02, Geneva: Sri Lanka today called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and refugee receiving countries to expedite resettling of refugees and assist Sri Lanka with resources to provide facilities to asylum seekers until they are resettled.
In a statement to the 65th Session of the Executive Committee of the UNHCR on Thursday in Geneva Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Mrs. Samantha Jayasuriya said despite not being a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Sri Lanka has been accommodating refugees/ asylum seekers in the country and the country is burdened with the influx of refugees.
Sri Lanka has been facilitating the work of the UNHCR according to the working arrangement between the Government and the UNHCR in 2006, with regard to the issuance of certificates by the UNHCR to asylum seekers/refugees.
During the last two years Sri Lanka witnessed an almost 700% increase in the arrival of asylum seekers/refugees, the envoy told the Committee. By June 2014 there were 1,606 applicants and 321 refugees.
Sri Lanka has come under criticism from the UNHCR and the human right organizations for deporting the Pakistani and Afghan asylum seekers back to the countries they have fled.
Since early June, Sri Lankan authorities have arrested and detained a total of 328 refugees and asylum-seekers, and deported 183 of them to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The UNHCR asked the Sri Lankan government to refrain from deportations and abide by its obligations under international law.
The Sri Lankan government said the country is burdened with the influx of refugees and the UNHCR is too slow to process their cases and resettle them.
The envoy told the committee that the process of resettlement has slowed down considerably in 2013/14, resulting in serious law and order, security, as well as health related issues for Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan government, being sensitive to the humanitarian aspects of asylum seekers/refugees, has sought UNHCR’s assistance in addressing related issues through several measures.
Sri Lanka asked the UNHCR to establish a safe house or welfare center for those identified as refugees until they are accepted for resettlement in a third country.
The government wants the UNHCR to regularize the process of return of asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected, as at present, once rejected, UNHCR bears no responsibility for the welfare or return of rejected asylum-seekers.
Sri Lanka asked UNHCR to expedite the process of resettlement to ensure its completion within a short period of time and ensure that asylum seekers are provided with adequate facilities and monetary assistance to live in Sri Lanka until their claims are processed or resettlement is found.
Noting that these issues remain yet to be resolved and expressing its willingness to work with the UNHCR, Sri Lanka requested the refugee receiving countries to expedite the processes of finalizing resettlement claims and to also assist UNHCR to enhance its resource capacity.
Full Text of the Statement