Britain moves to deport Tamil torture survivor

By Phil Miller, researcher at Corporate Watch

22 year old man detained regardless of UK rules forbidding detention of torture survivors.

UK immigration officials have detained Janahan Sivanathan, a 22-year-old Tamil asylum seeker and political activist from Sri Lanka.

Janahan is being held at the Morton Hall detention centre in Lincolnshire while the government tries to deport him. Supporters say that Janahan was “horrendously tortured” as a school student during the war in Sri Lanka, after he was rounded up and held captive for ten days.

His lawyer filed a fresh claim and submitted new medical evidence on 1 June. However his case will not be heard in court until 15 July. The Home Office’s own guidance says that victims of torture should only be detained in exceptional circumstances.

Janahan’s supporters say that his medical case history shows he suffered serious torture and is at high risk of suicide. Doctors are warning that his mental health has already deteriorated while in detention and that he is effectively being ‘re-traumatised’.

He has severe symptoms of psychological distress and complex PTSD, according to healthcare professionals. During Janahan’s first detention at Morton Hall — over three months last year — he self-harmed.

Morton Hall can have a disastrous impact on people’s mental health. Nigel Newcomen, the Prisons & Probation Ombudsman, has just published a report on his investigation into the death of Rubel Ahmed, a 26-year-old Bangladeshi man found hanged at Morton Hall in September 2014, after he was told that he would be deported. (You may access the report here.)

Torture in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s security forces are notorious for torturing Tamils. The UK Foreign Office’s latest report on Sri Lanka found that “There were continued allegations of police involvement in torture and custodial deaths, as well as in extrajudicial killings throughout 2014.”

Janahan is at particular risk because of his political activities with the Tamil Solidarity group. He participated in London protests against Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Sri Lanka ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2013 and against President Sirisena’s visit to London in 2015.

Sri Lankan intelligence services hold a black-list of politically active Tamil expatriates. Although a new president was elected in January 2015, the list remains in use by immigration officers at Colombo Airport. The Sri Lankan military continues to maintain an overwhelming presence across the Tamil regions. Last month, priests said that commemoration services for those who died in the war were monitored and harassed by plain-clothed intelligence officers.

Tamil Solidarity are calling on people to demand that the Home Office releases Janahan. You can find the details here.