Urgent UN intervention sought on missing Sri Lankan asylum seekers

The Human Rights Law Centre last night sent a request for urgent action to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The request relates to two groups of Sri Lankan asylum seekers, including at least 37 children, who were reportedly travelling to Australia to claim protection but have not been heard from for four days after reportedly being intercepted by Australian authorities.

The Australian Government has repeatedly refused to confirm where these 200 asylum seekers now are or what it plans to do with them.

HRLC Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, said detaining the asylum seekers on the high seas and returning them to Sri Lanka with no due process would be clear breaches of international law. 

“You can’t just detain 200 people and not tell anyone. And you can't just deliver 200 people straight back into the hands of those they claim to be fleeing. Doing so would clearly breach international law. We’ve asked the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to take urgent action to stop this from happening,” said Mr Webb.

The Human Rights Law Centre has asked the Special Rapporteur to take urgent action to ensure the Australian Government:

  • discloses the whereabouts of the asylum seekers;
  • facilitates their communication with a lawyer; and
  • refrains from sending them back to Sri Lanka in breach of international law.

The request is available here.

For further comment contact Daniel Webb (0437 278 961).