Australian High Court sanctions deportations of Sri Lankan refugees


Australian High Court sanctions deportations of Sri Lankan refugees

Mike Head

11 September 2017

Australia’s supreme court last week approved the forced removal of asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, even though it was proven they face appalling conditions of imprisonment, including “torture, maltreatment and violence.”

In last week’s case, by a four-to-one majority, the judges rejected appeals by two Sri Lankan refugees to being deported back to the country they had fled because of ongoing repression by President Maithripala Sirisena’s government.

The ruling is an indictment of the last Greens-backed Australian Labor government. Labor launched a vicious program, in violation of international refugee law, to forcibly transport more than 650 Sri Lankans to Colombo, denying them the right to apply for asylum, knowing they would be punished and persecuted for trying to escape the country.

One of the majority judges, James Edelman noted that since November 2012 all “returnees” had been “arrested after their return,” held on remand and charged with an offence under Sri Lanka’s Immigrants and Emigrants Act 1945.

Edelman said Australia’s Refugee Review Tribunal, whose decision the court endorsed, referred to official “country information” which indicated that prison conditions in Sri Lanka did not meet international standards.

There were documented concerns of “overcrowding, poor sanitary facilities, limited access to food, the absence of basic assistance mechanisms, a lack of reform initiatives and instances of torture, maltreatment and violence.”

A former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture reported on “severe overcrowding and antiquated infrastructure” in Sri Lankan prisons. And a press report quoted “returnees” who said they “slept on the…

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