British court blocks Sri Lankan Tamil deportations

A group of failed Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers have won the right to stay in the UK after the high court here blocked their deportation scheduled for today.

Lawyers for Tamils facing deportation claim the landmark decision applies to all other failed Tamil asylum seekers as well as those in detention, none of whom can be deported pending investigations into their claims that they will be subjected to torture in Sri Lanka.

The UK Border Agency, however, stressed that the decision did 'not represent a blanket ban on returns to Sri Lanka'.

'We are disappointed with the outcome of this hearing and we will appeal,' it added.

Human rights groups have maintained that Tamils sent back earlier have been tortured.

A Human Rights Watch report released earlier this week had claimed that Sri Lankan security forces were using violence to torture suspected members or supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The report had also accused the British government of continuing to deport failed asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka despite mounting evidence that they face the risk of being raped and tortured on their return, nearly four years after the end of the island's civil war. The Sri Lankan government denies these claims.

An immigration tribunal in Britain has been hearing evidence on the wider question of the situation in Sri Lanka and its deliberations will be used to update UK Home Office guidance on the risks of returning people to the island.

In his high court ruling this week, Justice Wilkie said that because the guidance on Sri Lanka was being considered 'virtually afresh' and it was clear that 'the existing country guidance will have to change,' the failed Tamil asylum seekers could not be deported as planned.

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