GENEVA (14 August 2014) – Two United Nations human rights experts* today expressed their grave concern at the situation of Pakistani asylum seekers in Sri Lanka who are being detained and forcefully deported to Pakistan without an adequate assessment of their asylum claims.
“States must guarantee that every single asylum claim is individually assessed with due process and in line with international law,” stressed the UN Special Rapporteurs on minority issues, Rita Izsák, and on freedom of religion and belief, Heiner Bielefeldt.
At least 108 Pakistani citizens have been deported since the beginning of August, according to the UN Refugees Agency (UNHCR).
“Most asylum seekers from Pakistan belong to religious minorities, including Ahmadiyya Muslim, Christian and Shia, groups that are often subjected to persecution, discrimination and violence in Pakistan,” Ms. Izsák said. “Many of them are being deported despite being registered with UNHCR and having their first instance interviews still pending.”
Violent attacks against religious minorities have increased significantly in recent years, according to Pakistani sources. Last year, 687 persons belonging to religious minorities were reportedly killed in over 200 separate attacks.
“Such violence is fueled by existing blasphemy legislation particularly targeting minorities and lack of protective measures for them in Pakistan,” Mr. Bielefeldt said.
“The personal security and safety of Ahmadiyya Muslims, Christians and Shias who are being returned to Pakistan from Sri Lanka is a matter of serious concern, due to the large number of cases of violent attacks and threats against members of those religious communities by militant extremists in Pakistan,” he highlighted.
The UN human rights experts called on the Government of Sri Lanka to comply with the principle of non-refoulement (no-forced-returns) when there is a credible potential threat against an individual and to stop the deportations immediately in order to allow the completion of the entire asylum claim process.
“The risks faced by the deportees should never be underestimated but must be adequately assessed” stressed the Special Rapporteurs. “It is our hope that the Government of Sri Lanka will collaborate with the UN Refugees Agency in its work to guarantee the rights of asylum seekers, and avoid any actions that could lead to possible tragic consequences.”