Sri Lanka provides reason for detention of two former asylum seekers

Keywords: Repatriation

Press Release, SEM, 03.10.2013

Bern. The Sri Lankan authorities have accused two failed asylum seekers detained in Sri Lanka of taking part in activities in the service of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), initial investigations suggest. The two men had been deported from Switzerland and were immediately taken into custody on their return to Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan authorities have agreed in principle to allow Swiss representatives to visit the two men in custody.

Following their return to Sri Lanka a few weeks ago, two Sri Lankan nationals who had been refused asylum in Switzerland were arrested at Colombo airport. The Federal Office for Migration (FOM) refused their asylum applications back in 2011. The Federal Administrative Court had judged removal orders issued by the FOM to be lawful and reasonable in each case. The two men are still being held in custody. Switzerland is in regular contact with their families and with the Sri Lankan authorities. According to Sri Lanka, the two men are accused of taking part in activities in the service of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).

Based on a bilateral agreement on returnees signed in 1994, the Sri Lankan authorities recently agreed in principle that representatives from Switzerland may visit the two detainees in custody. This will allow the Swiss representatives to assess the men’s state of health in particular.

External quality control

In order to be able to check carefully whether a person is exposed to danger in their home country, the Swiss asylum authorities rely on asylum seekers to declare all the relevant facts relating to their situation. There may also have been shortcomings in the work processing the asylum applications of the two detainees. In order to assess whether this is the case, the procedures will be examined by an external body: the Federal Office for Migration has requested the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to conduct a quality review of the detainees’ cases. The UNHCR will then review the dossiers of those persons still in Switzerland whose asylum claims have been dismissed and who might therefore have expected to be repatriated to Sri Lanka.

On 26 August 2013, the FOM decided to suspend repatriation to Sri Lanka for the time being. Switzerland is the only European country to have done so at present. As a result, the FOM has temporarily ceased to deal with asylum applications which are likely to be rejected. However, positive decisions and temporary admissions are still being made. These decisions by the FOM will remain in effect until more is known about why the two men were taken into custody and regarding the current situation in Sri Lanka.

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