TGTE Informed of Abused Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees Facing Deportation in Togo

The Ministry of Refugees, IDPs, and POWs of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) was informed on November, 2011, of the arrest of 203 Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers, and refugees in Lome, Togo. They were detained at the National Gendamari Police Station. According to the BBC, “they were hoping to get to Canada by boat from Ghana after traveling through India and Ethiopia.” According to the refugees, “6 children and four infants were amongst them.” UNHCR protecting officer, Stephanie Woldenberg, in Togo was notified of this by the TGTE Ministry. According to the Ministry, “the detention center is inadequate and not up to standards as there were no medical facilities for those who were ill.” There were also complaints from the female refugees of the Togo officers taking their pictures while bathing.

The TGTE Ministry stated that, “Woldenberg requested permission from the authorities to see the refugees along with the Togolese Red Cross. The refugees were then provided with adequate food, medication, and mosquito nets. She assured the detainees that they were protected under the UNHCR mandate, and said they would try their best to help. However, after December 25, 2011, the Togolese officers denied UNHCR access to the refugees. Due to pressure from the Togo government, the UNHCR ceased contact with the Tamil detainees.”

The TGTE Ministry received leaked information from within the detention center reporting of “a few Sri Lankan agents meeting with the refugees claiming to be with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).” According to the refugees, “the agents refused to disclose their names, and took three male detainees to a separate location. They were forced to sign a document stating that they agree to return to Sri Lanka. Upon their refusal, they were stripped naked and tortured. The Sri Lankan agents returned to the remaining refugees, and informed them to cooperate by signing the documents, or face the same treatment. The refugees then signed the papers to return to Sri Lanka. Twenty people are due to return back to Sri Lanka against their will on Friday, February 3, 2012.” As informed to the TGTE Ministry, “the remaining Sri Lankan refugees are in fear not knowing their fate upon return.”

In an immediate attempt to stop the forced deportation of the Tamil asylum seekers, and refugees, the TGTE Ministry contacted a human rights lawyer in Winnipeg, Canada and a local lawyer in Togo. “The Sri Lankan ethnic conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended brutally in May of 2009,” as stated by Amnesty International. According to London’s Channel 4 documentary ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields,’ “over 40,000 Tamil civilians have been killed in a matter of three days. Scores were raped, tortured, and summarily executed by Sri Lankan armed forces.”

Togo is a signatory country to the 1951 Refugee Convention and should be held accountable for its actions. According to the Winnipeg Press article ‘Helping Hand for Tamil Refugees’, “Tamils that have fled persecution in Sri Lanka settle in nearby countries such as India and Mala. ysia, and in new homes in faraway places, such as Canada and Ecuador.” However, “the Sri Lankan government insists that only Tamils guilty of war crimes have anything to fear by staying in the country,” according to the BBC.

The TGTE Ministry stated that it “finds the GoSL’s statement rather contradictory to their previous protests against an independent international investigation into war crimes committed during the war on the island nation. Furthermore, it can only be speculated that the reason for the GoSL’s keen interest in bringing the Tamil asylum seekers, and refugees back to Sri Lanka is to silence the ‘would be’ key witnesses of the war crimes.”

The TGTE Ministry further stated that “the Tamil refugee problem persists not only in the West African country, but around the world in places like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India, and Ecuador. The global community has an obligation to intervene in this matter by supporting a thorough independent international investigation in the Sri Lankan war crimes.”

Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) is a democratically elected body of the Tamil Diaspora from the island of Sri Lanka. TGTE held elections in 15 countries to elect Members of Parliament. The Parliament drafted and ratified its Constitution, elected a Prime Minister, a Speaker, and 10 Cabinets consisting of 10 Ministers and Deputy Ministers.

For information contact:

Minister Muthukumarasamy Ratna: m.ratna@tgte.org
Deputy Minister Alex Doss: alexdoss@tgte.org
Visit at http://www.tgte-us.org and contact at info(at)tgte-us(dot)org

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