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UNHCR

Sri Lanka slammed for expelling asylum seekers

The Geneva-based UN refugee agency on Tuesday accused Sri Lanka of breaking international law in its growing campaign to kick out Pakistani asylum seekers without a fair hearing.

Sri Lanka slammed for expelling asylum seekers
UNHCR headquarters in Geneva. Photo: Jungpionier/Wikimedia Commons

"Fundamentally, this is a breach of the principle of no forced returns," said Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR).

"That's a clear violation of international law." 

Sri Lanka has deported 88 Pakistanis since August 1st, despite claims that they could be at risk in their homeland, Edwards said.
   
Starting with men who had been placed in detention, the country has widened the net to cover whole families, he told reporters.
   
"We are very concerned at the continued deportations that are happening," Edwards said.

"We want deportations stopped."
   
In all, there are now 11 women and eight children among the deported, Edwards said.
   
"Some of the latest deportees had their passports and asylum-seeker certificates seized last week," he said.

"They were told to go to Colombo airport, where they were placed on flights to Pakistan."
   
Edwards added that UNHCR staff had also heard of families being separated — including a man sent home over a week ago and whose pregnant wife remains in Sri Lanka.
   
Hundreds of Pakistani Christians fleeing persecution have been arriving in Sri Lanka in search of a haven.
   
Sri Lanka has defended its crackdown, saying a state's responsibility under international law had to be "nuanced and balanced in the context of domestic compulsions".
   
Edwards could not immediately give details about the background of the deportees but said UNHCR guidelines stipulate that asylum claims from Pakistan's Christian, Ahmadiyya Muslim and Shia Muslim minorities should be given particularly careful attention.
   
He said UNHCR also wants access to 157 asylum seekers — including 84 Pakistanis, 71 Afghans and two Iranians — who remain in detention in Sri Lanka.
   
"These recent developments have heightened anxiety among the refugee and asylum-seeker population in Sri Lanka," Edwards said.

"Many are afraid to leave their homes for fear of arrest, detention and deportation." 

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UNHCR

Unrest in Burundi sparks exodus of 100,000: UN

More than 100,000 Burundians have fled to neighbouring countries since political violence erupted in April, the Geneva-based United Nations Refugee Agency said on Friday, as the country reeled from a foiled coup attempt.

Unrest in Burundi sparks exodus of 100,000: UN
UN Refugee Agency's headquarters in Geneva. Photo: Jungpionier/Wikimedia Commons

Refugee agency spokeswoman Karin de Gruijl said nearly 70,200 people had fled to Tanzania, 26,300 to Rwanda and nearly 10,000 to the South Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
   
The number was more than double the figure provided by UNHCR a week ago.
   
The announcement came after an attempt to overthrow Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza ended in failure, with coup leaders detained or being forced to go on the run, ending uncertainty over who was in charge of the small, landlocked and impoverished nation.
   
The country has been gripped by political crisis over Nkurunziza's controversial bid to stand for a third consecutive term in office.
   
More than 25 people have been killed and scores wounded since late April, when Burundi's ruling CNDD-FDD party — which has been accused of intimidating the opposition and arming its own militia — nominated Nkurunziza to stand for re-election in June 26th polls.
   
De Gruijl said the increased unrest in the country had sent many fleeing to neighbouring Tanzania.

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