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Letter to Luke Hartsuyker and Scott Morrison - return of 41 Sri Lankan asylum seekers - 8 July 2014

Dear Luke Hartsuyker,
The return of 41 Sri Lankan asylum seekers to Sri Lanka and the secrecy surrounding this action is both morally indefensible and in contravention of international law. Returning these people to Sri Lanka exposes them to risks of serious harm, including physical and mental torture.  
It appears that the refugee status of the people on board has been assessed by cursory questioning and with no concern for due legal process.
Sri Lanka is a refugee-producing country. Historically, 90% of Sri Lankan asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia have been found to be refugees. Even in 2012/13, when the number of Sri Lankan boat arrivals reached its peak, a majority of arrivals were found to be refugees.

The same Sri Lankan security forces to which the Australian government has just delivered the asylum seekers stand accused of gross human rights abuses.
Detention is inherently dangerous in Sri Lanka. Torture and other serious human rights abuses are widespread in the custody of Sri Lankan security forces, including the police. Abusers are rarely, if ever, brought to account.

Any critics of the Sri Lankan government – be they journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers or opposition politicians – face serious threats to their life and personal security, including abduction, torture and enforced disappearance and death.

The simple but critically important promise at the heart of the refugee convention is that we will not return people to harm. The only way to ensure that we keep this promise is to give asylum seekers access to Australia’s normal refugee status determination process.The extraordinary secrecy that shrouded the fate of this boat, and that of another boat with 153 or so asylum seekers, shows the lengths to which the Coalition Government is determined to go to prevent people from accessing that process and their rights under International law.
The government’s policy diminishes Australia as a nation in the eyes of the world. The denial of information also treats the Australian public in a disdainful and dismissive way.
I wish to express my profound opposition to these actions and policies and would be most interested to have your own view on these issues.
Yours sincerely,
8. 7. 2014

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