Tamil asylum seekers previously tortured: Tamil Refugee Council

The council’s spokesman Aran Mylvaganam told the ABC he has spoken to a relative of asylum seekers on the boats who told him about the reported torture by Sri Lankan intelligence authorities.


Concerns have been raised about the fate that awaits two groups of asylum seekers that may have been handed over to the Sri Lankan navy amid reports of continued abduction, torture and rape of members of the Tamil minority in the restive country.

The federal government has refused to comment on reports that two groups of Tamil asylum seekers either had been or would be transferred to Sri Lankan authorities after being intercepted while trying to reach Australia by boat.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that he was “happy to give the Australian people an assurance” that he was “absolutely confident that no harm would come to anyone” who had been in his government’s charge.

Mr Abbott on Thursday said while Sri Lanka was not “everyone’s idea of the ideal society”, the civil war there had ended and much progress had been made on human rights.

The comments from the prime minister come less than a month after British Foreign Secretary William Hague said his government would investigate claims that Tamil asylum seekers were being deported from the UK to Sri Lanka despite evidence they had been the victims of rape and sexual abuse at the hands of the country’s security forces.

A June 11 report by The Guardian, which carried Mr Hague’s pledge, also quoted immigration lawyer Kulasegaram Geetharthanan, who said he had worked on recent deportation cases where “forensic evidence” showed clients were subjected to rape during their time in detention in Sri Lanka.

A prominent member of the Australian Tamil community says he has grave fears for the fate of a boat of Tamil asylum seekers who had reportedly been secretly screened by Australian authorities at sea via video link, and were set to be transferred into Sri Lankan custody.

“It is well documented by human rights organisations and eminent people that returnees have already been put through, torture, extortion,” the man, who asked not to be identified, told AAP.

“Can Prime Minister Tony Abbott can give a personal guarantee that nothing will happen to these people? We seek the personal guarantee that nothing will happen to these returnees.

But he said the reality is that Tamils that are returned face “torture, rape and sexual violence, extortion, long-term detention”.

He also cited comments from Yasmin Sooka, co-author of a UN panel of experts report into atrocities in Sri Lanka and another report, titled An Unfinished War: Torture and Sexual Violence in Sri Lanka 2009 – 2014, who said there was evidence of ongoing and “systematic” sexual violence being committed against Tamils.

The second report included 40 testimonies of rape and torture since the conflict in Sri Lanka ended in 2009.

“When they go back they are going to be in trouble. This is clear,” the Tamil man who spoke to AAP said.

“These guys went through the blockade and these guys are going to be taught a lesson.”

The Abbott government has repeatedly refused to confirm reports that two boats have been intercepted.