Germany targets Tamil asylum seekers as Sri Lankan government steps up repression


The German government deported 24 Tamil refugees to Sri Lanka on March 30, and rounded up about 75 more for possible deportation. Protests have taken place in front of the deportation center in Büren, Germany. According to Internationaler Menschenrechtsverein Bremen (International Human Rights Bremen), the blame for the deportations lies at the feet of the ruling Social Democratic Party and Christian Social Union.

The Tamil Guardian reports that over the last month, “German authorities have conducted mass raids and detained Tamil refugees across the country, mainly in Nordrhein-Westfalen and Baden-Württemberg. … As well as raiding homes, authorities reportedly invited asylum seekers to renew their permits to remain, but upon arrival at the building, they were detained by police officers, who confiscated their phones and prevented them from communicating with their relatives and loved ones. Many families still do not know the whereabouts of their loved ones who have been detained.”

These practices are similar to those used in the United States, where undocumented immigrants are often detained after being lured into a sting under false pretenses by ICE agents. Operations of this type are not only viciously inhumane, they also affect public safety since a large proportion of the population is unable to feel safe in public spaces, including hospitals and other medical centers.

The situation for Tamils in Sri Lanka is increasingly desperate. While the civil war between the Sri Lankan state and the nationalist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam officially ended with the latter’s military defeat in 2009, the Sinhalese majority government continues to target the Tamil community. In February 2020, the Sri Lankan government officially withdrew as a co-sponsor of Resolution 40/1 on Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, a move that was largely symbolic but shows the general political trajectory of the Sinhalese bourgeoisie. Basic rights for Tamils were thrown away as the government designated an estimated 35 Tamil organizations and over 100 individuals as “terrorists” last week.

February of this year saw mass demonstrations in Sri Lanka against the bulldozing of a statue commemorating Tamil victims of the civil war and a number of severe violations of Tamil and Muslim rights. The latter included a protest march that was meant to highlight:

1) Continuing land grab in Tamil areas and converting Tamils’ traditional and historical places into Sinhalese areas by establishing Buddhist temples after destroying Hindu temples. As of now, around 200 Hindu temples have been affected.

2) Muslims who died due to COVID are cremated against the wishes of the families and against Islamic teachings.

3) Tamils in the upcountry have been urging for pay raise of 1000 rupees, but the government is not responding to their demands.

4) Since the war ended 10 years ago, militarization of Tamil areas is continuing and Tamils historical identity is being destroyed with the aim to change the demography in favor of Sinhalese, using different government departments, especially the archeological department. Also, government-sponsored Sinhalese settlements are continuing.

5) Tamil cattle owners are facing numerous problems; their grazing areas are being occupied by Sinhalese and their cows killed.

6) Tamil youths have been imprisoned without charge or trial for over 40 years; the same methods are now being used against Muslims.

7) Tamil political prisoners have been imprisoned for years without trial. The government has pardoned Sinhalese on a regular basis, but none of the Tamil political prisoners were pardoned.

8) Families of the disappeared have been protesting to find their loved ones, but the government refuses to give them an answer.

9) Tamils have been denied the right to memorialize their war dead, as demonstrated by denying remembrance events, destruction of cemeteries of the war dead, and demolition of memorials.

10) Government is targeting Tamil journalists who cover these abuses and Tamil Civil Society activists who protest the abuses.

11) “To Implement Tamil’s Joint Appeal to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and to UN Human Rights Council Member States,” which includes a request to “Refer Sri Lanka to International Criminal Court (ICC) for War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide committed against Tamil people by the Sri Lankan State.”

All protest actions were technically illegal and severely repressed by the “Special Task Force,” a paramilitary arm of the national police.

In a classic display of imperialist hypocrisy, the round-ups and deportations come mere days after Germany led the UN Human Rights Council to pass a resolution on accountability and justice in Sri Lanka. That report states that the UNHRC “expresses serious concern at the trends emerging over the past year, which represent a clear early warning sign of a deteriorating situation of human rights in Sri Lanka, including the accelerating militarization of civilian government functions; … policies that adversely affect the right to freedom of religion or belief; increased marginalization of persons belonging to the Tamil and Muslim communities; surveillance and intimidation of civil society; restrictions on media freedom, and shrinking democratic space, … arbitrary detentions; alleged torture and other cruel, inhuman degrading treatment or punishment, and sexual and gender-based violence.”

The United Nations is incapable of solving the problems of Germany’s anti-immigrant policies or the national oppression of Tamil people in Sri Lanka. While the movement may be able to win momentary stays of deportation in the short term, important victories indeed, the international deportation regime can only be totally overturned by workers taking power, with immigrants at their head.

In the same way, the national situation in Sri Lanka cannot be resolved as long as the national Sinhalese bourgeoisie, a puppet of imperialism, remains in control of the country. The working class everywhere has an obligation to support the struggles for self-determination of the Tamil people and for workers’ power on the island. 

Photo: Tamils and supporters protest outside deportation prison in Pforzheim on March 28. (Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka)

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