Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tamil Asylum Seekers

With the Sri Lankan government set to release roughly 130,000 more Tamils, who have been forcibly held in detention camps for the past half year, we can expect to see a variety of social problems escalate.

To begin with, it appears that the lead military official responsible for quelling the Tamil Tigers' (LTTE) resistance, General Sarath Fonseka, will be seeking presidential election. Should he be elected, can Tamil civilians truly expect a Sinhalese military official to treat the minority Tamil population fairly, coming off the heels of a 26-year civil war?

Furthermore, as more and more Tamils return "home," it is doubtful that they will find the key institutions necessary to build a health community -- families, schools, government, work -- in tact (see "Tamil activists' shock on return to Jaffna" & "Life as a Sri Lankan war refugee"). Governmental oppression may keep an overt Tamil resistance repressed, as already seen through the ongoing inspection of Tamil detainees and exclusion of foreign media. However, with key institutions destroyed or access to them denied, not all forms of resistance and survival seeking tactics can be stopped.

In particular, the number of Tamil asylum seekers will surely increase, risking their lives by taking unpredictably dangerous, lengthy trips to escape their oppression. While the international community gives very moderate attention to this conflict and lightly applauds the Tamils' release, this minority's future in Sri Lanka will not likely include significant improvements in education, work, or politics. The outcomes of such conditions are never positive. From the following Al Jazeera story: "Tamils risk all to flee Sri Lanka":

Irene Khan, the secretary-general of Amnesty International, the London-based human rights group, says the international community should be more involved in finding a safe home for Sri Lanka's Tamils.

"These people are in search of protection, the international community is doing very little," she told Al Jazeera during an interview on Sunday.

"There isn't any resettlement of refugees taking place, refugee protection is very weak and, therefore, people are taking the situation into their own hands to desperately find a place where they can have safety.

"It is not people smuggling. I would call it a flow of asylum-seekers."

According to Khan, asylum seeking is a growing trend.

"The numbers of people seeking asylum are going up precisely at a time when borders are closing, which creates a very serious humanitarian situation," she said.


"There is a lot of fear and negative propaganda about refugees and asylum-seekers - that these are people looking for a better life, when really, in effect, they are fleeing to save their lives," she said.

"There has to be a change in public opinion. Political leaders, and governments in particular, need to take charge to change the way in which refugees and asylum seekers are viewed - these are desperate people in need of protection and it should be provided to them."

And the attendant YouTube video, plus two more:

Tamils risk all to flee Sri Lanka

101 East - Refugees on the run - 12 Nov 09 - Pt 1

101 East - Refugees on the run - 12 Nov 9 - Pt 2

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