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Immigration: Sri Lankan Tamils

Volume 701: debated on Thursday 8 May 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many Sri Lankan nationals of Tamil background in immigration detention in the United Kingdom have made applications to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg based on their claimed risk on return to Sri Lanka; whether they replied to the letter of 23 October 2007 from the registrar of the fourth section of the European Court of Human Rights; if so, what reply they gave; whether they have agreed, or will agree, not to remove such applicants to Sri Lanka until their cases are decided at Strasbourg; and whether on 12 February the fourth section agreed a lead case, NA v United Kingdom, application number 25904/07. [HL3279]

The European Court of Human Rights does not routinely notify the Government when an application is made for interim measures under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. Statistics on the number of applications should be sought from the court. The court only notifies the Government when an application is granted.

The Government replied to the letter of 23 October on 31 October stating that:

“The Government do not consider that the current situation in Sri Lanka merits the conclusion that Tamils who face removal to Sri Lanka will necessarily face a real risk of ill treatment in breach of the Convention. Each case must be assessed on its merits against the available evidence”.

A copy of this letter was placed in the Library of the House.

This policy has already been subject to judicial scrutiny. The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal found in the case of LP[2007] UKAIT 00076 that Tamils are not per se at risk of serious harm from Sri Lankan authorities in Colombo and that consideration of a number of factors that may increase the risk to an individual is required in each case.

Where the European Court of Human Rights grant an application for interim relief the Government will not enforce removal until the court is satisfied that it is safe to do so.

The Government understand that the court may adopt a lead judgment dealing with the safety of return issues for Sri Lankan Tamils and that this is likely to be in the case of NA v United Kingdom. The Government are not aware that any such judgment has yet been adopted by the court.