William Hague to investigate claims of Tamil rape victims being deported
Pledge follows allegations UK is sending back Sri Lankan asylum seekers who have been abused by security forces.
William Hague has said the government will investigate claims that Tamil asylum seekers are being deported from the UK to Sri Lanka despite evidence they have been subjected to rape and sexual abuse by the country’s security forces.
Refugees, their lawyers and advocacy groups made the allegations on Tuesday on the opening day of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, hosted by the UK, which has faced accusations of hypocrisy over the issue.
Lawyers even reported an acceleration of deportations of Tamils in recent weeks, which they believed has been triggered by anticipation of new Sri Lankan guidelines expected to bolster the cases of Tamil asylum seekers fleeing torture.
The foreign secretary pointed out that asylum decisions were handled by the home secretary, Theresa May, but that the Foreign Office contributed to country-by-country assessments of human rights. He promised an investigation and training for immigration officers to make them more sensitive to the plight of rape victims.
“We are a country that is open to asylum seekers. We uphold our standards very strictly and, whenever anyone thinks we are not doing that, we are always happy to investigate,” Hague said.
“I particularly discussed with [May] already the importance, which she fully agrees with, of our immigration officers being trained in how they deal with people who have suffered sexual violence abroad.
“These things are discussed across government. They will continue to be. Where people have a valid point, a valid complaint, we will take it up. This is something the whole government feels strongly about. So be in no doubt: where there are issues, we will investigate them.”
Hague was speaking at the start of the summit he is co-hosting with Angelina Jolie, serving as special envoy of the UN high commissioner for refugees.
Jolie said she would be talking to female Tamil refugees in Britain during the four-day summit to hear about sexual violence in Sri Lanka and would raise the issue when she meets the high commissioner, António Guterres, at the conference on Thursday.
A Home Office spokeswoman said Tamil refugees’ complaints would be reviewed before commenting on their status.
Five years after the Sri Lankan army crushed the Tamil Tiger insurgents, human rights groups have reported continued abduction, torture, rape and other sexual violence against both male and female members of the Tamil minority.
A report this year by Yasmin Sooka, a member of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, found that “abduction, arbitrary detention, torture, rape and sexual violence have increased in the postwar period”.
In a foreword to the report, Desmond Tutu, the South African archbishop emeritus, said: “I find it horrifying that almost half the witnesses interviewed for this report attempted to kill themselves after reaching safety outside Sri Lanka.”
- The Guardian,