News / Middle East

    Tamil Refugees in UAE Face Deportation

    Phillip Walter Wellman
    There is growing concern among rights activists that a group of Tamil refugees held in Dubai since October may soon be forced to return to their native Sri Lanka, where rights groups say they are at serious risk of being persecuted and tortured.

    Nineteen refugees, including six women, say they were told by UAE authorities to leave the country by April 11.

    They were among 46 Tamils who fled Sri Lanka in October, trying to reach Australia by boat. After running into trouble at sea, a Singaporean ship rescued them and brought them to Dubai.

    The UNHCR has recognized 39 members of the group as refugees. Third-country resettlement has been found for all but the 19 thought to be at risk of deportation.

    According to Human Rights Watch, Sri Lanka is alleged to torture Tamils with assumed links to the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), including failed asylum seekers.

    The Sri Lankan government defeated the Tamil Tigers militarily in 2009 after three decades of conflict.

    "We have documented the serious abuse of individuals with suspected ties to the LTTE in Sri Lanka. This includes serious physical and sexual abuse. The 19 refugees in Dubai are well aware of what may await them there and speaking to them, it was clear that the prospect of being returned to Sri Lanka had them terrified," said Nicholas McGeehan, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.

    Lokini Rathimohan, a former journalist, says she decided to flee Sri Lanka after government soldiers killed several of her colleagues. She says she and the other refugees in Dubai fear they could meet a similar fate if they are forced to return.

    "The situation is a very, very big problem. We are afraid, very afraid," she said.

    The refugees say they are being kept together in a single room at Dubai’s Jebel Ali Port and have minimal contact with the outside world.  According to Rathimohan, they were given no further information after being told they must leave Dubai and are uncertain about their future.

    "No final result [was given] to me. What will happen to our cases, I don’t know," said Rathimohan.

    Authorities in the UAE did not reply to repeated requests for an interview.

    The UNHCR says it continues to search for third-country resettlement for the remaining refugees and that it was unaware of any deadline in place.

    "UNHCR has not learned anything about recognized refugees that have been asked to leave, but on UNHCR’s request they [UAE authorities] have been quite supportive in terms of admitting this group and also allowing them to stay," said Babar Baloch, a UNHCR communications officer in Geneva.

    The UAE has not ratified the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, however rights campaigners argue the country is obliged under customary international refugee law to keep the Tamils until they are resettled in a safe environment.

    You May Like

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    Carry-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society, so here's the deal with pizza, Chinese food and what racism has to do with taking food to go

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora