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UN classifies Lankans – Journalists, gays, lesbians, suspected LTTE supporters – for refugee status

Journalists, gays, lesbians, suspected LTTE supporters favoured; but warns of armed forces personnel

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has listed persons suspected of LTTE links, journalists, opposition politicians, political activists, and gays and lesbians, as being among the categories of Sri Lankans “likely to be in need of international refugee protection.”

On the other hand, UNHCR also advises that applications by persons such as members of the armed forces be carefully considered.

It says this is in light of “documented human rights violations and transgressions of international humanitarian law by all parties during the three-decade long armed conflict, in addition to alleged serious human rights abuses post-conflict”

The recommendations are published in the 2012 ‘UNHCR Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection needs of Asylum-Seekers from Sri Lanka’. It was released on Friday.

The guidelines are aimed at helping decision-makers and governments to assess applications for asylum.
 The last guidelines for Sri Lanka were issued in 2010. This year’s document says it has taken into account the current situation in the country where “ongoing human rights concerns are reported, including in particular with regard to reports of post-conflict justice, torture and mistreatment, disappearances, arbitrary detention and freedom of expression”.

It says all claims lodged by Sri Lanka asylum-seekers “need to be considered on their own merits” More specifically, it adds, the possible risks facing individuals with profiles specified in the document “require particularly careful examination”.

“UNHCR considers that individuals with these profiles – though this list is not exhaustive – may be, and in some cases are likely to be in need of international refugee protection, depending on the individual circumstances of their case,” it states.

The categories are persons suspected of certain links with the LTTE; certain opposition politicians and political activists; certain journalists and other media professionals; certain human rights activists; certain witnesses of human rights violations and victims of human rights violations seeking justice; women in certain circumstances; children in certain circumstances; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals in certain circumstances.

With regards to categories whose applications need close perusal, UNHCR says “exclusion considerations under Article 1F of the 1951 (Refugee) Convention may arise in individual claims by asylum-seekers from Sri Lanka”.

Article 1F states that the provisions of the Refugee Convention shall not apply to any person with respect to whom there are serious reasons for considering that he has committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity; has committed a serious non-political crime outside the country of refuge prior to his admission to that country as a refugee; has been guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the UN.

The Sri Lanka country guidelines state, therefore, that careful consideration must be given, in particular, to certain (former) Government officials, including in functions with responsibilities relating to the conduct of war during the final phases of the conflict, and those posted in the conflict-affected areas during the final phase of the conflict.

Also in this category are certain (former) members of the Sri Lankan Army and other security forces; certain (former) members of the police, including the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID), and the Special Task Force (STF); certain former members of the LTTE, in particular former combatants; certain (former) members of the ‘Tamil Makkal Viduthali Pulikal’ (TMVP), including the Karuna faction and the Inya Barathi Group.

The UNHCR has cautioned further on applications from certain (former) members of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP); certain (former) members of the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE); and certain (former) members of other pro- and anti-government militias and paramilitary groups.



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