Asylum Seekers: Newest Way to Increase Christian Population in Sri Lanka
People belonging to religious minorities specially Christians in Pakistan and Afghanistan had been increasingly seeking help from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) in Sri Lanka. They were hoping that the UNHCR would assist them to settle in Sri Lanka where they can breathe freely.
During the last couple of years, Sri Lanka had been one of the popular destinations of these religious asylum seekers who sought for a shelter until the UNHCR processed their applications. The previous government of Sri Lanka developed a tough approach towards these bogus asylum seekers by cancelling on-arrival visas and by deporting. At that point, there was a court ruling, allowing the government to arrest detain and expel those seeking refuge.
Under the pro-Christian government lead by Ranil, Rosy, Ravi, John, Ranjan Department of Immigration and Emigration no longer deports such bogus religious asylum seekers pretext of increasing Christian population in Sri Lanka.
While the asylum seekers have little to fear in Sri Lanka as the Immigration Department has now stopped hunting them down they take free ride to settle in Sri Lanka with the support of Christian church priests. One Christian Priest who has been supporting the asylum seekers, said that “From what they gathered, many people are being discouraged due to the manner in which inquiries are being carried out. The interviewers are asking people to give only yes or no answers without properly hearing them out. How can anybody explain their situation with yes or no answers
He insisted that most of the cases that have been rejected are very genuine cases – he himself had come to know many of these asylum seekers over the last couple of years. He said that according to what they had told him and shown him, he believes that their stories are not fabricated but are sincere and genuine. He added that even though the UNHCR had given the chance for the people to re-appeal, people are in fear that their application would be rejected in the same manner. He reiterated that the UNHCR should give these people a proper hearing without letting them live on the edge.
A Christian doctor from Pakistan who had fled Pakistan with his family said his case was heard on this month and now awaiting a response from the UNHCR. He added that he was mostly asked questions with yes or no answers and there were several of other questions. Only if you live in Pakistan, you would know how religious minorities are being treated,” he added. So, he wanted to settle in Sri Lanka with the support of Christian Church.
Reeta, another Christian from Pakistan whose application was rejected added that about 95% of the applications have been rejected by the UNHCR. According to her, they had rejected her application saying that they did not believe that she was tortured or threatened. She claimed that “I have been here in Sri Lanka for about 23 months with no employment or help form anyone. “We are people who are persecuted simply because of our Christian religious faith.
Harris Javed another asylum seeker whose application was rejected said that initially they were in a shelter provided by the Pakistan Europe Christian Association (PECA) but they had to find a house for rent – and they had been living off their own money with a lot of struggle.