Australia Aware Of Rape And Torture Claims Of Asylum Seekers In SL

Asylum seekers claimed they were raped and tortured after Australia returned them to Sri Lanka. In an SBS Dateline programme, two asylum seekers who sought refuge in Australia named Bhanu and Narada had alleged that they were tortured.

According to reports, allegations of the government torturing and raping Tamils have continued even after the civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Eelam and the Sri Lankan government ended in 2009.

Bhanu told the show that his torturers would always hit him with "one of those things they use with electricity."  Narada also revealed he was brought inside a Sri Lankan government building in Colombo where his captors hung him outside down from the roof. He said his torso was hanging down while they pulled him up. After hanging him upside down, his torturers placed a book on his head and proceeded to hit him. The blow would cause Narada to "pass urine and defecate."

One female refugee told the program that she was gang-raped by military officials in Sri Lanka. She said she attempted to go back to Australia but Sri Lankan Customs officials had intercepted the boat at sea.

The SBS report claimed that the Australian government knew of Narada's allegations based on the documents it acquired under the freedom of information laws. The documents purportedly showed the federal police were aware of the torture claims of asylum seekers but failed to ask about the matter.

The Australian federal police had allegedly said they were trying to keep their distance from the investigation in Sri Lanka. However, Sri Lankan high commissioner to Australia Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe denied the allegations against the government.

He told SBS Dateline in a live interview that the accusations were "obviously doctored." The high commissioner questioned the timing of allegations at a time when several parties are trying to "damage" the image of Sri Lanka.

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison released a statement and said the available information to support the claims cannot be disproved and "impossible to determine their credibility." Morrison further claimed that ambiguous and anonymous statements with no given dates and identities of the people accused will only render the effort to follow up on them "inconclusive."

Morrison has repeatedly claimed that the Abbott government has prevented and turned back asylum seekers heading to Australia by boat. Australia has recently signed a deal with Cambodia to resettle asylum seekers.



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