UN committee concludes family’s deportation to Sri Lanka would violate rights

Canadian Council for Refugees

Press release

For immediate release

16 May 2011

UN committee concludes family’s deportation to Sri Lanka would violate rights


The Canadian Council for Refugees today welcomed the final decision of the United Nations Human Rights Committee upholding a complaint against Canada’s planned deportation of a family to Sri Lanka.

The UN Human Rights Committee ruled that “in the light of the documented prevalence of torture in Sri Lanka” Canada failed to give proper consideration to the family’s fears that they would suffer torture in Sri Lanka. The father had submitted at the refugee hearing two expert reports from mental health professionals supporting his claim of having been subjected to torture.

"This decision is a timely reminder that the refugee system is about protecting people from torture and other serious abuses,” said Wanda Yamamoto, President. Those making refugee determinations need to consider very seriously the documentary evidence – unfortunately this does not always happen, as this case shows.

The Committee concluded that deporting the family to Sri Lanka would violate their right to be protected from torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 7).

The family consists of a couple, a child born in Sri Lanka and two Canadian-born children. The parents fled to Canada after being detained and tortured by Sri Lankan authorities on suspicion of having lent support to the rebel Tamil Tigers. The couple maintains that they were, in fact, victims of extortion by the Tigers.

With the assistance of the Montreal-based Committee to Aid Refugees (CAR), the family appealed to the UN Committee  in February 2008,  just days before their scheduled deportation to Sri Lanka and at the peak of the civil war in that country. The UN Committee requested that Canada suspend the deportation while it examined the claim, a request to which Canada agreed. The Committee has just issued its final ruling on the merits of the complaint.

The case also raises concerns because of an inadequate consideration of the best interests of the three young children.

"The immigration officer who ruled on the case essentially just said that, because the children are young, they can adapt to life in Sri Lanka, without mentioning that they would be going to a war zone,” said Rick Goldman, CAR Coordinator. “Although there are many conscientious immigration officers, this dismissive attitude towards children’s rights appears in all too many immigration decisions.”

The Committee ruled that the complaint regarding the treatment of the children was sufficiently substantiated to merit its full consideration. However, the Committee ultimately found it unnecessary to issue any comment on this aspect of the complaint, once it had reached its conclusion regarding the risk of torture the family faced.

The Canadian government now has 180 days to respond to the UN Committee’s decision. The CCR calls upon the Canadian government to settle this case in a humanitarian manner, taking into account the UN Committee’s findings.

The Canadian Council for Refugees also calls on the Immigration and Refugee Board and Citizenship and Immigration Canada to review their practices in the light of this decision, with a view to ensuring that expert reports and documentary evidence on country conditions are given appropriate weight in determining claims for protection in Canada.

The full text of the decision is available here.

For further information, please contact:
Colleen French, Canadian Council for Refugees: 514 277-7223 ext. 1, cfrench@ccrweb.ca