It's not safe to return asylum seekers, says advocate

Government claim disputed

Claims by the Federal Government that Sri Lanka is safe enough for the return of asylum seekers from Australia have been challenged by a representative of Brisbane archdiocese's Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, reports The Catholic Leader.

CJPC executive officer Peter Arndt made the call after a recent visit to Sri Lanka as part of a group of 30 Catholic justice and peace workers from across Asia and the Pacific.

'My personal encounters with Tamils in the north of Sri Lanka have convinced me that the situation for Tamils and critics of the Sri Lankan Government is extremely difficult,'he said.

'I came face to face with survivors of the civil war. The systematic way in which Tamil men are being arrested and detained indefinitely looks suspiciously like ethnic cleansing to me.' He said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay had visited Sri Lanka a week before and came to the same conclusion.

Mr Arndt said the Abbott Government must not turn a blind eye to human rights violations committed during the Sri Lankan civil war and in the post-war period.

'The Australian Government is doing this to obtain the Sri Lankan Government's cooperation in its hardline approach to asylum seekers,' he said. 'How can Mr Abbott, Mr (Scott) Morrison and Mrs (Julie) Bishop say things are going well in Sri Lanka when respected figures like Ms Pillay and the Catholic Bishop of Mannar, Bishop Reyappu Joseph, still speak out about the on-going oppression and violence in the north?

'How can they, in good conscience, send Sri Lankan Tamils back home when they know that many people continue to be forcibly disappeared and many are still being detained indefinitely and tortured?'

FULL STORY It's not safe to return asylum seekers, says advocate