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Government to continue repatriating asylum seekers to war-torn Sri Lanka

The escalating conflict in Sri Lanka has led to a worsening human rights situation Keystone

The government has decided to continue forcibly repatriating asylum seekers from Sri Lanka despite pleas from the Swiss Refugee Council to postpone the programme until the civil war on the island cools down.

This content was published on July 28, 2000 - 22:37

On Wednesday, the Refugee Council urged authorities to allow Tamils to stay on in Switzerland because of a drastic deterioration in the country's human rights situation. However, the Federal Office for Refugees said asylum seekers would be returned to the capital, Colombo, rather than to regions in the northeast which are embroiled in the fighting between the army and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

The refugee office said it was closely watching developments in Sri Lanka and that returnees never encountered any risks.

The refugee office said repatriation is done on a case by case basis,

In a report, the Refugee Council warned that the ongoing military conflict in Sri Lanka meant that repatriated asylum seekers could face imprisonment if they returned home.

Thousands of members of the ethnic Tamil minority in Sri Lanka were apparently detained temporarily. The council also said the situation in the capital, Colombo, had worsened for Tamils who feared pogroms.

The NGO said Tamil women are particularly vulnerable and suffer from increasing violence and discrimination. The group also said traumatised returnees often do not have access to care facilities.

The report is in line with similar calls by the human right group, Amnesty International.

As part of a special humanitarian programme, the Swiss authorities earlier this year decided to grant temporary residence status to about 13,000 people who had applied for asylum in Switzerland before 1993. Among those eligible for the programme are mainly people from Sri Lanka and the former Yugoslavia.

swissinfo with agencies

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