The Ministry of External Affairs has received a number of inquiries on the return of individual asylum seekers, mainly of Pakistan origin.
Sri Lanka’s territory has been used by those seeking asylum for over a decade. However, the asylum seeker/refugee population in Sri Lanka witnessed a dramatic 700 per cent increase during the period 2013-14 and as at 30 June 2014, there are 1562 asylum seekers and 308 refugees. Investigations have revealed that the sudden increase in the number of asylum seekers in Sri Lanka was as a result of people falling victim to commercially driven human trafficking networks which abuse the liberal visa policy in place in the country exacerbated by a sharp increase in the numbers resettled in third countries in 2012. Regrettably, the process of resettlement slowed down considerably in 2013/14. It is therefore questionable whether they have a legitimate claim to seek asylum.
The influx of asylum seekers and their tendency not to have an established place of residence has resulted in serious law & order, security, as well as health related issues for the authorities. In fact, in April 2014, ten cases of malaria were detected among these asylum seekers. This detection was made at a time when Sri Lanka, having achieved zero indigenous cases of malaria for the past several years, was under consideration for obtaining WHO certification.