Germany: Collective deportation of Tamils to Sri Lanka met with outrage

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Twenty-four Tamils have been deported from Germany to Sri Lanka. Citing the danger returnees face, a refugee support organization and a Catholic priest condemned the action.

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US American English

Originally published on 31 March 2021

According to Germany's federal police, a flight with 24 Tamils took off from Düsseldorf airport on Tuesday (March 30) evening. On board were 24 Tamils, who were brought to the airport from a deportation detention center in Büren in the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW).

German public broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) reported on Tuesday that the affected persons lived and worked across NRW, Germany's most populous state.

According to WDR, some 50 people gathered at the airport with posters to demand a stop to the deportation. On Sunday, nearly 200 people had already protested against the measure in front of the deportation detention center in Büren, WDR reported.

'Deteriorating situation' in Sri Lanka

"Deportations to Sri Lanka were all but banned in recent years for good reasons," Birgit Naujok, managing director of the refugee council of NRW, said in an online statement.

It was inhumane to return the Tamils there, she said, especially since people with Tamil roots were subject to human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

Last week, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations (UN) confirmed this view. In a resolution, it spoke of a "deteriorating situation" in Sri Lanka and criticized "the erosion of judicial independence, marginalization of minorities and impunity."

It further called on the Sri Lankan government to change the "law on the prevention of terrorism," which rights groups say the government uses "as a weapon targeting dissidents and minorities".

On March 23, the UN council announced it would "collect and preserve information and evidence of crimes related to Sri Lanka's 37-year-long civil war".

The civil war between the government and the insurgent Tamils ended in 2009. According to the UN report, the government committed several war crimes, including against its own citizens. They have not been dealt with sufficiently though, the UN said.

Letter to Seehofer

Albert Koolen, a Catholic priest from Krefeld, also in NRW, spoke out against the deportation last week. In an open letter to German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, he called the deportation flight a "fatal signal" and asked Seehofer to stop it. The deportees could face prison, torture and death, Koolen said.

Tamils are an ethnic minority in several Asian countries. In Sri Lanka, they make up around 15% of the population. There are more than 70 million Tamils globally.

Recently, controversial deportations to Afghanistan also sparked outrage and concern.

Adapted from Info Migrants

New vocabulary:

  • citing – referring to

  • returnees – refugees returning from abroad

  • condemned – criticized

  • detention center – a prison-like institution where unauthorized reufugees or immigrants are forced to stay

  • most populous – having the largest population

  • some – approximately/about

  • all but – very nearly

  • subject to – forced through/forced to experience

  • deteriorating – worsening

  • erosion – loss and destruction

  • judicial independence – when the judiciary (which is responsible for a country’s legal system) is independent from the other branches of government. It is an important aspect of a democracy

  • marginalization – treating a group of people as if they are not important

  • impunity – where there is no punishment for behaving illegally

  • dissidents – a person who publicly disagrees with the government

  • insurgent – someone who is fighting against the government in their own country

  • sufficiently – effectively enough

  • fatal – causing death

  • sparked outrage – shocked and angered a lot of people

 

Questions:

What do you know about the historical situation for Tamils in Sri Lanka?

What can be done to prevent people from being deported from European countries?

What are some effective protest ideas to prevent deportations?