Grave concerns about reports relating to the interception of Sri Lankan asylum seekers
The Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture Inc. (Foundation House) holds grave concerns about reports relating to the interception of Sri Lankan asylum seekers by Australian authorities and their transfer to Sri Lankan officials.
According to media reports partially confirmed by the Australian Government, Australian authorities detained the almost 200 individuals at sea, have undertaken ‘enhanced screening’ of their asylum claims and to date have transferred 41 of them into the custody of Sri Lankan authorities.
Foundation House has always maintained that requests for protection by people from Sri Lanka, as for any other country, have to be considered very seriously and carefully.
In recent years Australian decision-makers have found many Sri Lankan asylum seekers to be refugees who could not safely return. Foundation House itself has had a large number of Sri Lankan clients who have been subjected to torture and other serious human rights abuses.
The Australia government is obliged to ensure people who seek our protection are not returned to a place where they are at risk of persecution or other grave harm.
It is essential that there be fair and proper procedures in place to assess asylum seekers’ claims. The reported actions of the Australian Government raise serious apprehension that this obligation may have been and may be breached.
The Australian Government has legitimate objectives to prevent asylum seekers from risking their lives on dangerous boat journeys to Australia. It is critical that the policies that are adopted to pursue these objectives comply with our obligations under domestic and international law.
The Australian Government should immediately provide credible evidence that it is acting in strict compliance with its legal obligations and ensure no action is undertaken that might breach its obligations and put people at risk.