The Global Tamil Forum avoids this issue
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) would not be involved in the ongoing controversy over the UK’s decision to relocate Sri Lankans, seeking to settle in the UK, into what the government has termed a “safe third country”, unless did not return to Sri Lanka ‘voluntarily’.
About 120 Sri Lankans are believed to be housed in a gated camp on the US-British estate Diego Garcia, part of the Chagos Islands that the UN said belonged to Mauritius and are expected to be returned by December 2019. The UK calls the Indian Oceanic Archipelago of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). Those representing the interests of the Sri Lankan group want the UK to allow them to settle in the UK.
The island sought the GTF’s response to the highly contested British move and also asked whether the issue in question would be raised at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). GTF spokesperson Suren Surendiran sent us the following reply: “GTF, as an organization that operates internationally and not specifically in a specific country as such, is usually not involved in country-specific issues, at the outside Sri Lanka. The GTF is predominantly an international defense organization. There are various country-specific Tamil organizations. There are also Tamil institutions / organizations, including law firms, which act and lobby immigration policies in the UK and various other countries ”.
The United Nations Court of Maritime Law, the United Nations General Assembly and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) have ruled that the Chagos Islands belonged to Mauritius. The online edition of the Guardian, on October 18, quoted Zehrah Hasan, an advocacy director for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, as saying: “The British government has denied the fundamental rights of Tamil refugees in the Chagos Islands, for over a year. In an insensitive move, it appears that they can expel these same refugees to a third country, similar to Rwanda’s plan. “
Hassen was referring to the UK agreement with Rwanda to accommodate those denied refugee status in the UK. Hassan was also quoted as saying to the Guardian: “Those who have fled the persecution must make their voices heard and their right to protection recognized in the UK.”
Amid the ongoing controversy, some of those who had been “held” in disputed UK territory had chosen to “voluntarily” return to Sri Lanka in the recent past. UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Minister Jesse Norman recently told Parliament that over 60 Sri Lankans have voluntarily returned home. Meanwhile, Australia reiterated that Sri Lankan illegal immigrants would not be tolerated under any circumstances. In separate statements, Interior Minister Clare O’Neil, Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram, and Joint Agency Task Force (JATF) Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) Commander Rear Admiral Justin Jones issued terrible warnings that those who violated their laws would be treated.
Flanked by Commissioner Outram and Rear Admiral Jones, Minister O’Neil said Australia’s border protection policies have not changed. If you attempt to reach Australia by boat, you will be intercepted and turned back and end up back in Sri Lanka much worse than when you boarded. The only way to legally get to Australia is with a valid visa. “
Rear Admiral Jones said he will detect, intercept and report anyone embarking on an illegal boat trip to Australia. The senior official warned that no boats made it to Australia. Australia released footage of a young man carrying a pair of slippers disembarking from an Australian ship that had brought back a group of people several months ago warning that such efforts would not be tolerated at all.
A couple of weeks before the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Minister O’Neil met with the President and then Foreign Minister Prof. GLPeiris to reiterate their insistence on OSB. In exchange for Sri Lankan cooperation, Australia stepped up support for cash-strapped Sri Lanka and granted free fuel to its Navy and Air Force to support operations aimed at deterring human trafficking.