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Australia to deport Lankan asylum seeker

A Sri Lankan asylum seeker, who is an LTTE suspect, is to be deported from Australia after the UN Committee against torture had withdrawn a request to halt his removal, the Guardian reported on Wednesday.

Shantaruban, currently held in immigration detention in Melbourne, has been in Australia since arriving by boat in 2012. A notice of intention to remove from Australia has been issued against him for February 22.

Shantaruban’s claim for refugee status has been rejected. He says he has been unable to properly present his claim for protection because he was initially fearful to declare his association with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).When Shantaruban later sought to present evidence of his involvement with the LTTE, it was ruled inadmissible because he had not declared it earlier.

Other former members of the LTTE have declared their association and have had their claims to persecution recognised by the Australian government.

In October last year, the UN committee against torture issued an interim measure request, formally asking that Australia “refrain from returning Shantaruban to Sri Lanka while his complaint is under consideration”.

The UN, several governments and human rights groups have consistently raised serious concerns over the return of Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, particularly those with known links to the LTTE.

However, Australia’s permanent mission to the UN in Geneva wrote to the committee this month arguing Shantaruban’s “claims are not substantiated” and “that it is not necessary to take the interim measures requested”.

It said, “there were no substantial grounds for believing Shantaruban faces a real risk of irreparable harm if returned to Sri Lanka”.

In response, the committee on February 19 wrote to the Australian government, lifting the interim measure and effectively clearing the way for Shantaruban’s removal from Australia.