Crack down on Tamils returning to Britain?
From Neville de Silva in London
British HC says…
British High Commision officials when contacted
for comments said that they were unable to comment on the report immediately
until they sought clarification from the British Home Office.
There is mounting concern in the Sri Lankan refugee community in the
UK over rumours that the British authorities have started cracking down
on Tamils who have recently holidayed in Sri Lanka and returned following
Thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils, many of them here as refugees, went
home to Jaffna and the north since the way opened up after the original
ceasefire between the government and the LTTE and more so after the Norway
brokered Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) was reached.
Many Tamils who went back on holiday or to see their families or relatives
were refugees with permanent residence in Britain,sources said. However
on their return to Britain some of them are reported to have been asked
by Immigration officials whether they were returning from Sri Lanka. Since
they were able to go home and return without harassment their earlier status
had been cancelled and one-year visas stamped instead on their passports,
the sources said.
Tamil community members said it had happened to several persons since
the exodus to Sri Lanka started at the beginning of this year.
The Home Office could not be contacted to verify this story, but earlier
under a new law passed by Parliament, Immigration officials had been given
discretionary power to make decisions relating to citizens of four countries
including Sri Lanka. Talk in Tamil circles was that this power was probably
being used by Immigration officials at Heathrow, because not every one
who returned has had their original status in the UK reduced.
Tamil sources said that as a result many others from their community
who had made arrangements to return to Sri Lanka for a short stay, have
had second thoughts and cancelled their flights.
However travel agents who handle traffic to Colombo said they have had
no cancellations and the flights to Colombo on all the airlines that flew
there were full. SriLankan Airlines London-based country manager S. A.
Ramachandran confirmed that his flights were totally booked up and the
airline was expecting to introduce an eighth flight soon to its weekly
schedule and a ninth shortly after to coincide with the summer holidays.
"Rather than having cancellations our passenger load has increased.
That is why we need extra flights," Ramachandran said, adding that SriLankan
Airways office staff have their hands more than full dealing with the substantial
increase in passengers.
"Our revenue has increased and we have been commended for this," he
Lawyers dealing with immigration matters said that even if permanent
stay is granted to refugees there are conditions attached. Committing criminal
offences, disturbing public order and even returning to a person's country
of origin for a short stay, could jeopardise the right to live here.
In recent years a number of Tamil refugees have been involved in crimes.
Earlier this month the BBC programme "Crime Watch", showed the body of
a person half out of a stationary car with three persons standing round
arguing- scenes caught by a video camera.The body later taken away and
burnt was identified as that of an 18 year old Tamil youth. Three other
Tamils were later taken into custody.
This is one of the more recent cases of violence involving local Tamils.
"These crimes are committed mainly by those who came here as refugees.
Some of them have brought their vendettas between families and villages
in the north over caste and other issues to the Britain," some Tamils told
The Sunday Times.
"The result is that the whole Tamil community is being looked down upon
by the British. It is good that the immigration officials are changing
the status of these people. They are a liability to all of us," said one
Tamil who came here before the refugee influx to the UK started after July
1983. Others who had come here legitimately agreed, saying that in future
Sri Lankans will be treated with suspicion and apprehension as many Muslims
here are now being treated following the September 11 terrorist attack
on the US and the links being established between the terrorist organisation
and some British Muslims.
"We don't want that to happen to us. It is good if they send back all
these trouble makers," said one as others nodded in unison.
Diplomatic bonanza for the north
By Shelani Perera
More than 30 diplomats will be going to the North on Thursday, with the
government hoping that the visit would bring in more development aid.
Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando told The Sunday Times the tour was
organised on a request by the diplomats.
" They will get the opportunity to see the development work carried
out so far since the ceasefire. As the government has already made a request
for aid, the diplomats will be able to get a clearer picture and be able
to help us more," Mr. Fernando said.
The diplomatic team including the envoys of Britain and Canada are expected
to go to Jaffna, Kankesan-thurai, Chunnakam, Chavakachcheri and Point Pedro.
French Embassy spokesperson Claudia Delmas said the visit would help
them to identify areas where development aid was urgently required. The
British High Commissioner however is not joining this team and is expected
to visit the North separately.
What next Ratnasiri?
Former Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake who took a back seat after
the PA's December 5 general election defeat, returned to Parliament for
budget day on Friday but appeared to be in no mood to come back to the
limelight. "Why do you want to photograph me now,?" Mr. Wickremanayake
asked a photo journalist in Parliament. However the government appears
to be going out of the way to accommodate him. Mr. Wickremanayake is to
be given a special room in Parliament and will be allowed to retain more
than 60 security officers and vehicles, government sources said. Mr. Wickremanayake
took over as leader of the opposition after the December 5 ouster of the
PA government but health problems and internal conflicts drove him into
the backwoods. The former premier who had been a powerful number 2 in the
PA since the October 2000 election, underwent open heart surgery in Singapore
but the bigger crisis was an internal battle to maintain his position.
The opposition to his leadership came from a group which was backing Mahinda
Rajapakse and they eventually succeeded in February. Mr. Wickremanayake
is also known to be under family pressure, with one of his sons telling
him to retire from politics and the other urging him to roar on.