Sri Lanka warns Australia on granting Tamil Tigers asylum

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Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Australia has warned that former Tamil Tigers may try and revive the movement in Australia if they are granted refugee status.

A large number of Sri Lankans are amongst a group of nearly 1,600 people being held on Christmas Island while their claims for asylum are being processed.

The bulk of these asylum seekers have been from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, with smaller numbers from places including Burma, Kuwait and Iraq.

Thirty boats carrying asylum seekers have been stopped this year by Australian naval patrols as they entered territorial waters.

Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Australia, Senaka Walgampaya says there is evidence that between fifty and a hundred of those detained could have been members of the Tamil Tigers.

“We have heard that most of the people there, that are quite strong young people, some of them bear shrapnel marks on their bodies too, people who have been in combat evidently.”

But Mr Walgampaya admits he has no direct evidence that those being held were Tamil Tigers and was only going by reports from people on Christmas Island.

The Australian government says comprehensive security checks are carried out before a visa is granted and the checks are conducted by security agencies and take into account all relevant information about an individual.

‘Should be given a chance’

The President of the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations, Dr Sittampalam Raagavan says even if some of the people have links to the Tamil Tigers, they should be given a chance

“I don’t think most of them could be…ex-combatants but anyway whoever it is, if people want to reform…they should be given a chance to look at a democratic free country to live and start their life,” he said.

“I don’t think Australians should be concerned…obviously you see the history of Tamils living here in Australia, they are a peace loving people and they have not done anything against Australian law.”

The Australian Government says so far there is no evidence to suggest that there are any Tamil Tigers amongst the group of people presently on Christmas Island seeking asylum.

Mr Walgampaya says he is unconcerned if refugee status is granted but warns it could later cause problems for Australia.

“It doesn’t matter to us that they are granting refugee status, but I only warn Australia to ensure that the ex-Tiger combatants don’t come into Australia and then try and revive the [the Tamil Tiger] movement which has been defeated militarily in Sri Lanka,” he said.

Advertising campaign

Meanwhile, the Australian Government is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising in Sri Lanka to try to deter boat arrivals.

The poster and street theatre campaign will warn Sri Lankans about the dangers of using people smugglers to try to get to Australia.

It will also educate them about how to migrate successfully.

More asylum seekers have tried to reach Australia’s shores so far this year, than in the previous seven years.

Thirty boats carrying some sixteen-hundred people have arrived in the last nine months, compared to less than 500 arrivals in the years between 2002 and 2008.

Australia recorded its highest number of arrivals in 2001, with more than 5,500 thousand asylum seekers.

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