Deported to Torture: UK Shame Over Tamil Refugees

The British government is continuing to deport Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka despite more evidence emerging that some of those removed are being tortured.

As I reported last year, there is a wealth of evidence that Sri Lankan authorities continue to practice torture on political opponents. Yet British authorities have insisted that the country is safe and hundreds of those fleeing the country have been returned.

Now the Guardian reports on a man who was arrested six months after he was deported. He was beaten with rods, had petrol-filled plastic bags put over his face and was hung by his feet with a nylon rope. The man whose real name is not reported for fear of retribution shows his back, which has a welter of scars. The Guardian has seen medical reports supporting his claims. He had originally fled after being tortured.

He managed to escape through bribery and then made his way back to the UK via Russia and is now filing a second claim for asylum. He said:

I believed that the UK authorities would consider my case reasonably but, regardless of all my history and the evidence, they sent me back and I had to suffer again.

Human Rights Watch reported at the end of May on a further 13 cases it had found of returned Tamils who have been tortured.

One was detained at the airport:

I was beaten up and tortured. My head was banged against the wall. I was suspended upside down and burnt with cigarettes. I was handcuffed and shackled throughout and beaten with various objects. My interrogators accused me of being an LTTE agent and tried to suffocate me with a petrol-infused plastic bag.

It reports on a woman who managed to make her way back to Britain in late 2010 after having been deported. She had been tortured and raped after her forcible return to Sri Lanka.

Human Rights Watch says many of those deported are questioned on arrival about their political activities in the UK, a factor which UK authorities do not take into account. There are also numerous accounts of ‘disappearances’ of those returning to Sri Lanka, whether forced or voluntary.

Despite frantic efforts to stop it, including activists sitting down in the road to try to stop a bus, a charter plane returned 36 Tamils last week.

Human Rights Watch and Freedom from Torture have called on the government to halt further removals and undertake a serious policy review. Channel Four reports that the British government does not monitor the fate of those it forcibly returns. Channel Four says that many of those returned last week were followed by Sri Lankan Intelligence officers after leaving the airport.

Sri Lanka’s head of state, Mahinda Rajapaksa, had tea with the Queen as part of the Jubilee celebrations on Wednesday — but was forced to cancel a speech due to protesters.

Related stories:

New Report Documents Torture in Sri Lanka (Video)

Tamil Refugees Arrive in Canada After Months At Sea

Genocide, Violence and Oppression: Alive and Kicking, Says M.I.A.

Image by


Victim T.
Victim T.5 years ago

It is not only shame but also crime aganist humanity and the international humnitarian laws.

Shawn O' Malley
Shawn O' Malley5 years ago

The Geneva Convention expressly forbids this. The Uk is bound by International Law to grant refugee status to aslym seekers facing torture in their countries of origin.

DaretoCare S.

Aditya N. - Thank you for taking the time to offer your perspective. Life is indeed a learning process, and that is one of the reasons I enjoy this format so much; it provides a way for people to connect with others from every corner of the world. I think many of us form our opinions of world events utilizing a mish mash of various media - tv, newspapers and the internet. Unfortunately, most of these sources are questionable to say the least, which makes it very difficult to pick out the real information from the dross. I apologise if I have been inadvertantly spreading false information regarding India's military expenditures :)

Aditya Narayan
Aditya n5 years ago

sometimes somethings are very difficult to change or work your way around ..i agree
first .i see no problem in taking refuge in india .. india has 1 whole state dedicated to tamils.
and if he managed to escape through bribery and then made his way back to the UK via Russia... then he could stayed in russia .. it is easy to stay in russia ..this i know ..( no matter what people think.)

if we look at the whole bigger picture .. there is lots of various vested interests playing its roles here.
and this is for you .....and for your comment-- (daretocare s.)---India is home to a huge Tamil population, and spends absurd amounts of money on its military (including nuclear weapons)
this is not true .. india does not spend absurd amount of money on its military we are are hugely underpowered ..and as for indian nuclear weapon programme is a need to protect india against pakistan and china ... history proves ..they both are not friendly with india.

Angela N.
Angela N5 years ago


Angela N.
Angela N5 years ago


Maria D'Oporto
Past Member 5 years ago

This issue is to complex to be answered so simply.

DaretoCare S.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this issue. Perhaps one can compare Britains current stance upon previous happenings in Canada? (or perhaps not) I'm remembering the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora here.. First of all, these people should have claimed refugee status in Tamil Nadu--NOT made the long journey to Canada. India is home to a huge Tamil population, and spends absurd amounts of money on its military (including nuclear weapons). They should have shouldered this burden, in their own backyard. Anybody else remember how over 70% of Sri Lankan Tamils returned to visit Sri Lanka, within a year of setting foot in Canada? This makes a mockery of claims that having asylum granted in Canada was a life-or-death issue. This makes a mockery of my ever increasing tax burden going to support false claimants.There are more than 100,000 parents and grandparents of immigrants who have met requirements and are waiting to enter Canada. They will receive the benefits of our public health care system without having contributed to costs by paying income tax. Maybe, its possible isn't it that Britain is just acting in a proactive fashion to prevent the same abuse of their system (and taxpayers)? Just something else to consider when discussing this volatile issue .. Do your own research before you blindly start beating the "shame" drum, you might be surprised to find that this issue is more complex than it appears.

Mandi A.
Amanda A5 years ago

Just horrible!

Ernie Miller
william Miller5 years ago

Something needs to be done in Sri Lanka also