The British government for the first time has pushed ahead with a mass removal of Lankan asylum seekers to Colombo next week, according to The Independent.
The Independent has learnt that the Border and Immigration Agency has commissioned as many as three separate charter flights to remove more than 300 people next week. Removal directions have been sent out to numerous evictees stating two of the flights will take off on Wednesday, with a third planned for Thursday.
It is the first time the Government has pushed ahead with a mass removal to Sri Lanka since June, when more than 50 predominantly Tamil evictees were taken off the plane at the last minute after a senior judge accepted there was credible evidence they could be tortured on their return.
Over the past year there have been multiple examples of Sri Lankans who have been removed to Colombo, only to escape once again to Britain and have their asylum request accepted because compelling evidence of their torture has emerged.
Although some of those on the flight will be visa over stayers and convicted criminals, many are also failed asylum seekers from the country's Tamil minority who fear repercussions of returning to a nation with a dismal human rights record. Human Rights Watch has already compiled 13 instances in the past two years where Tamils removed from European nations – three of whom came from Britain – were subsequently tortured.
A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said the government "only undertakes returns to Sri Lanka when we are satisfied that the individual has no international protection needs." But that stance was seized upon by human rights groups.
"The research shows the Sri Lankan authorities will stop at nothing to extract intelligence about the activities of the Tamil community in the UK," said the Freedom from Torture CEO, Keith Best. "Forcing Tamils back... in these circumstances is a highly risky affair."
David Mepham, director of Human Rights Watch UK, added: "Given the very serious risk of torture facing many Tamils returned from this country, the UK should immediately impose a moratorium on these returns."