Sept 28, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government today stressed that Rohingya refugees from Myanmar will not be resettled in the country and no refugee will be given citizenship or resident visas as some have claimed.
The Ministry of Law and Order issuing a statement today on the attack on Rohingya refugees, announced that the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar will not be settled in the country.
The Ministry said certain people and organizations with narrow political goals using the Rohingya issue are attempting to mislead the people threatening the harmony between ethnic and religious communities through false claims in social media.
The Ministry expressed regret over the unlawful incident on 26 September where 31 Rohingya refugees, who were handed over to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) by the Government of Sri Lanka, were attacked while they were being sheltered in a safe house in Mount Lavinia.
The Ministry statement further said that three police officers also sustained injuries during the incident. After the disastrous incident, the refugees have been sent to the Boossa Detention Center on the request of the UNHCR. Three police teams are conducting further investigations into the incident.
The Ministry said the government takes legal action against the foreigners arriving in the country or its waters in violation of Immigration and Emigration laws provided in Article 10 of the Immigration and Emigration Act No. 20 of 1948. According to paragraph 45 (1) punishments will be imposed on such offenders.
In the case of the Rohingya refugees also, the government has not acted outside the stipulated legal framework and procedures and has taken action according to the country's Immigration and Emigration laws, the statement said.
The Ministry explained that the Sri Lanka Navy on 30 April arrested the 30 refugees, who entered in to Sri Lankan waters after living in India for four years.
They were detained at the Jaffna Prison after producing them before the Mallakam Magistrate Court in Jaffna and on May 3, 2017, they were handed over to the Department of Immigration and Emigration.
According to the Department of Immigration and Emigration procedures the refugees have been detained at the Mirihana Detention Center.
Meanwhile, the Mallakam Magistrate's Court on the instructions of the Attorney General has instructed the Department of Immigration and Emigration on August 8, 2017 to hand over the 30 refugees to the UN Refugee Agency.
Accordingly, the refugees have been handed over to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on 11 August 2017.
Presently, the UNHCR is taking measures to send the Rohingya refugees to another country.
The Law and Order Ministry said this is not the only occasion the Rohingya refugees had come to Sri Lanka. In a few previous occasions, Myanmar's Rohingya refugees have come to Sri Lanka and they have also been sent to other countries via the UNHCR.
On March 3, 2008, Sri Lanka Navy rescued 55 Rohingya refugees and handed over to the UNHCR. The refugees had left the country in July 2012.
Again in February 2013, the Sri Lanka Navy rescued two boat loads of 170 Rohingya survivors from a shipwreck in the eastern coast of Sri Lanka. They were kept under the care of the UNHCR, until they were settled in Canada and the United States of America in 2014 and in 2015.
The Ministry points out that in those previous occasions there was no attempt by any Sri Lankan organization to protest their presence. Therefore it is clear that the reason for such unexpected protest this time is an attempt by various political organizations to achieve their narrow political goals.
In the case of refugees, the government always abide by the existing legal framework or does not act out of due process and no decision has been made to grant citizenship or resident visa to any refugee, the statement said.
"The Ministry therefore kindly requests every citizen to act wisely and decisively and not to be fooled by the misleading and false claims by various individuals and organizations threatening the harmony between ethnic and religious communities to achieve their narrow objectives," the Ministry said.