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New blow to rejected Tamil asylum seekers

Switzerland should keep sending rejected Tamil asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka, the House of Representatives decided on Thursday.

This content was published on May 28, 2009 - 15:27

The House agreed with the Senate, which voted on the issue earlier this week. Both have followed the view of Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf that halting repatriation would send the wrong signal.

The 26-year conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers rebel group seeking independence for the north came to an end earlier this month.

Switzerland, which already has a large Tamil community, is expecting more refugees. According to Widmer-Schlumpf, by mid-May there had already been 662 new asylum requests.

The minister said that all cases were considered carefully by the migration authorities. So far one quarter of applicants had not fulfilled the criteria for acceptance. But she said no one would be repatriated to the troubled northern and eastern areas.

The foreign affairs committees of both chambers of parliament had come out in favour of halting repatriation. Hans-Jürg Fehr, chairman of the House's foreign affairs committee, said that although the civil war was over, any Tamil who was sent back risked being the target of revenge attacks and even assassination.

A number of international humanitarian organisations, including the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross, have called on the Sri Lankan authorities to grant them full access to Tamils displaced from their homes by the fighting and now living in government-controlled camps.

However, a motion by European countries demanding that Sri Lanka investigate reports of human rights abuses committed by government forces was defeated at the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Wednesday.

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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