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Wednesday, February 01, 2012 - 5.09 GMT

Smugglers dump Canada-bound Tamil asylum seekers in Togo


Two hundred Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka are stranded in West Africa, BBC reported, after the human smuggling ring they hired to bring them to Canada marooned them in Togo.

The BBC is reporting that 200 Sri Lankans left their country and travelled through India and Ethiopia before a smuggler abandoned them in Togo instead of taking them on to Ghana and then Canada.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says he is aware of the reports but could not confirm them.

"I'm not going to get into any operation details but I can assure you that our agencies work closely with governments around the world in order to stop criminal activities with respect to human smuggling," he said.

Over 200 people mainly from the North and East of Sri Lanka, sought to flee from the country with the aim of arriving in Canada through boat, who have been duped by an agent and dumped in Togo, the inmates in Lome detention centre say.

They say they were taken from Colombo to Mumbai and then to Addis Ababa from there and onto Lome by air on visit visa and where holed up in five houses, being assured that they would be taken to Ghana and from there by boat to Canada.

Officials from the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees, International Organization for migration- IOM and Canadian government along with the local immigration officials have visited them and have told them that it would be better to be deported them to Sri Lanka than being put in the local prison according to the detainees.

“Every morning we are woken around 4.30AM and by 6 AM we will be asked to sweep the entire stadium and clean the toilets used by the Military personnel inside the stadium where were detained” another inmate says.

Many of them allege that they have had a bout of Malaria fever and no proper medical facilities were available to them.

They also say they are forbid from meeting anyone expressing their difficulties and the only people to have visited us were international bodies who they allege are pressurising them to return back voluntarily.

Earlier nine people who were in Lome have returned back to Eastern Sri Lanka, who has told the BBC that there are similar people stranded in Benin and Ghana also.

According to latest reports there are 19 women and 11 children in the open detention centre and 28 people are returning back to Sri Lanka on 3rd or 4th February voluntary after the intervention of IOM.

The UNHCR in a report released in 2010 said, given the cessation of hostilities, Sri Lankans originating from the north of the country are no longer in need of international protection under broader refugee criteria or complementary forms of protection solely on the basis of risk of indiscriminate harm.

The UN Refugee Agency releasing its report on 5 July, 2010, titled 'Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Asylum-Seekers from Sri Lanka', further said that human rights and security situation in Sri Lanka has improved.

'In light of the improved human rights and security situation in Sri Lanka, there is no longer a need for group-based protection mechanisms or for a presumption of eligibility for Sri Lankans of Tamil ethnicity originating from the north of the country', UNHCR report stated.





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Last modified: February 01, 2012.

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