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Controversial decision Deported Sri Lankan returns to Switzerland

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A Tamil asylum seeker who was sent back to his home country in 2013 and subsequently arrested has been allowed to return to Switzerland.

The man, who was applying for asylum in Switzerland, was sent back to the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo two years ago after the State Secretariat for Migration concluded he would not be in danger if he went back home. However, he was arrested immediately on arrival at the airport in Colombo and was abused during his incarceration, according to his lawyer.

The man was released from a detention centre in Sri Lanka a few weeks ago. Because Swiss authorities were not prepared to allow him to return to Switzerland immediately, his lawyer filed a formal complaint against the secretariat director Mario Gattiker.

The secretariat had said that before a decision was taken on his return to Switzerland, the man needed to be questioned at the Swiss embassy in Colombo regarding his affiliation with the Tamil Tiger rebel group.

The man’s return to Switzerland on April 25 was organised by a group of NGOs. His wife and children, who were repatriated with him in 2013, had since been allowed to return to Switzerland and he was reunited with them. An investigation by the Swiss Centre of Expertise in Human Rights and the United Nations Refugee Agency found that the assessment of the man’s asylum application had not been thorough enough.  As a result, the secretariat issued a ban on repatriations to Sri Lanka in September 2013.

In May 2014, a more detailed report was released that said a series of blunders resulting from “systemic conditions” had led to the wrong decision being made in the man’s asylum case. Subsequently, the secretariat said it had reformed its practices and the ban on repatriations to Sri Lanka was lifted. Migration authorities now consider repatriations to Sri Lanka as “generally allowed”.

Some 250 Sri Lankans were sent back to their homeland by Switzerland between 2001 and September 2013.

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