Court rules political campaigning now grounds for asylum seekers from Sri Lanka

Tamil Solidarity campaigning in London, 2017

In a recent landmark ruling, the Upper Tribunal – responsible for judicial reviews of the UK’s Home Office decisions – has proposed new ‘country guidance’ used for determining asylum cases of refugees from Sri Lanka. The Home Office often uses outdated country guidance to reject refugee claims.

Among misguided claims from the old guidance was that only high-profile activists are in danger from deportation, and that the Sri Lankan government does not care about other political activists, and that they will be safe in Sri Lanka.

In the past, activists have pointed out that this guidance is based on interviews from Sri Lankan government supporters. This position has let many wrong court decisions be made, and resulted in the deportation of refugees to Sri Lanka.

This was challenged in a recent court case that involved Tamil Solidarity. The Upper Tribunal ruled in favour of our appeal – agreeing that organisations such as Tamil Solidarity are treated as hostile by the Sri Lankan government.

When Rogan Gunartna – a close ally of the Sri Lankan government, with close connections to Sri Lankan intelligent services – gave evidence, he confirmed that Sri Lanka’s ban is politically motivated, and not based on any security threat.

Secret lists

It is confirmed that the Sri Lanka government sees Britain as a ‘hub of Tamil separatism’, maintains secretive ‘ban’ and ‘watch’ lists, targets key events in Britain, and monitors almost all the leading members of all Tamil organisations. Basic activities, such as taking part in demonstrations and raising money for an organisation, are considered ‘terrorist’ activities by the Sri Lankan government.

Gunartna revealed that the Sri Lankan government maintains databases of members of Tamil organisation, with the information provided through the infiltration of these organisations and details obtained from British agencies. British government collaboration in vilifying Tamil political activists must be further exposed.

Refugees and asylum seekers are sometimes discouraged from political campaigning in Britain, under the threat that it could undermine their asylum claim. But this ruling has been achieved by campaigning. Political campaigning can help win the right to asylum.

The Tories and Labour pretend to champion human rights for Tamils only to secure votes among the Tamil population living in Britain. At the same time, they fully support government policy toward Sri Lanka, and do not question the continuation of British assistance to the regime.

Even this small victory by Tamil Solidarity is being challenged by the Home Office. But we are determined to continue the fight.


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June 2021