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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Tamil Refugees & Asylum Seekers > UNHCR Report on Tamil Asylum Seekers in Europe, March 1999
"According to UNHCR's March 1999 Background Paper on Sri Lanka for the European Union High Level Working Group (HLWG) on Asylum and Migration, 170,300 asylum applications were made from Sri Lankans in Europe and North America between 1990 and 1998 and 50,080 (30%) were granted Convention refugee status. A further 16,700 were given humanitarian leave to remain. The HLWG is expected to submit an analysis on an Action Plan relating to freedom, security and asylum, which includes economic cooperation with the country of refugee origin, assistance in the reception of displaced people in the region of refugee origin, safety of returning refugees and internal settlement alternatives. Sri Lanka is among the six countries selected for analysis by the HLWG.
In Europe, of the 13,100 applicants in 1998, only 350 (2.7%) were granted refugee status and 820 (6.2%) humanitarian leave, which are the lowest rates in the past nine years. UNHCR says that due to the armed conflict, the presence of the security forces, the presence of militant groups which operate relatively free in certain areas, the overwhelming concern of the authorities with matters of security and Emergency rule over the whole island since August 1998, refugee claims of Sri Lankan asylum-seekers must be examined on merits. When examining such claims, both state and non-state actors of persecution must be considered. Short-term detentions, occasional arrests and harassment may, cumulatively, amount to persecution.
No Sri Lankan asylum-seeker should be barred from having the refugee claim examined on its merits, on the basis of an internal flight alternative. The availability of the flight alternative must be determined in each case, considering the background of the refugee, the reasons for fear of persecution and the restrictions on the freedom of movement in the country, says UNHCR." (British Refugee Council publication Sri Lanka Monitor, March 1999 )