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Asylum seekers exploit UNHRC presence, SL women

2013 Jul 24

By Shamindra Ferdinando

In spite of Sri Lanka not being a signatory to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees hence not legally responsible to accept political refugees, some of those arriving in the country seeking political asylum elsewhere through the intervention of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are marrying local women to secure citizenship here.

A senior official told ‘The Island’ that the government was seriously concerned about the growing number of foreigners getting married here to avoid being deported in case they failed in their bid to secure asylum in a country willing to accept them.

Responding to a query, the official said that the vast majority of them entered the country on tourist visas before rushing to the UNHRC mission in Colombo. The official said that the government was exploring ways and means of tackling the problem.

Asked whether the government would take up the issue with the UNHCR, the official said that would be a possibility. "Obviously, unscrupulous elements are taking advantage of the presence of UNHCR mission in Colombo," he said.

According to him, 1,030 foreigners had been registered with the UNHCR up to June, 2013. The group comprised Pakistanis (959), Maldivians (35), Iranians (8), Palestinians (2), Afghans (16), Syrians (4) and one each from Nigeria, Jordan, Iraq, Eritrea and Somalia.

Sources said that in addition to 1,030 seeking political asylum, the authorities had identified 17,128 persons overstaying visas.

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