Andra Jackson, The Age (Australia), Feb. 24
Hundreds of Sri Lankans settled in Victoria fear the Federal Government is about to forcibly return them to their war-torn homeland.
Among them is “Rani”, who has lived in Australia with her husband and two children on bridging visas for 10 years.
They fled Sri Lanka to escape torture and detention. Three months ago, they were told that their work permits had been cancelled and that they no longer had proper visas.
The general secretary of the Victorian Tamil Community Association, Nagamuthu Wickramasingham, said Sri Lankans on temporary protection or bridging visas had also been told they had to supply proof of purchase of airline tickets to Sri Lanka within 28 days.
Mr Wickramasingham said the move was apparently prompted by the Federal Government’s belief that a ceasefire in the war-torn country would hold. But most analysts expected fighting to resume after elections in early April, he said.
About 125 Sri Lankan families in Victoria and nearly 500 nationwide feared they were going to be returned to face the same dangers they fled, Mr Wickramasingham said. They are members of Sri Lanka’s minority community.
Rani said she left Sri Lanka in 1985 after being arrested and tortured by security forces.
She has two children, including a nine-year-old daughter born in Australia.
Mr Wickramasingham said most of those affected came from Sri Lanka’s north, where security forces had taken over their former homes and declared a high-security zone.
An Immigration Department spokesman said applications would be considered. But once it was determined that someone no longer had a right to remain in Australia, they must be removed.