A resettled Tamil IDP sits next to his house, which was damaged from the war between Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the government, in Vavuniya
A resettled Tamil IDP sits next to his house, which was damaged from the war between Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the government, in Vavuniya

Several dozen Sri Lankans deported by the UK have arrived back in Colombo on an overnight charter flight.

A BBC reporter outside the airport and sources inside confirmed that their plane had touched down.

International human rights groups have criticised Britain for deporting them, saying the mainly Tamil asylum seekers may not be safe on their return.

This raises questions about the genuineness of the British government concerns about Sri Lanka. While earlier on this week. British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt called for the Sri Lankan government to launch an investigation following allegations of war crimes, some of the failed asylum seekers claimed their life would be put at risk if they were sent back to Sri Lanka, which did not stop the deportation orders.

"The Sri Lankan government does need this to be investigated and the UN needs this to be investigated,"

"We need to make sure we get to the bottom of what happened and that lessons are learned." the prime minister said this week.

Meanwhile, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said he was "shocked" by the "horrific scenes" in the film and urged the Sri Lankan Government to investigate allegations that war crimes were committed. "The recent UN Panel of Experts' report, this documentary and previously authenticated Channel 4 footage, constitutes convincing evidence of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. The whole of the international community will expect the Sri Lankans to give a serious and full response to this evidence,"

"Since the end of the conflict the UK has called for an independent, thorough and credible investigation of the allegations that war crimes were committed during the hostilities and the UK Government expects to see progress by the end of the year. I reiterated this message to the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister on 14 June," he continued. He added that if the Sri Lankan Government refused to investigate, the international community will "revisit all options available to press the Sri Lankan government to fulfil its obligations"

The deportation also took place despite the Home Office's own report on Sri Lanka, published in April, which says that "despite the end of the fighting, there continued to be human rights violations in 2010, including disappearances and extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests and a restriction on political space for free expression"

However, before the failed asylum seekers' departure, the UK Foreign Office maintained that "Returns to Sri Lanka will only be undertaken if we are satisfied that the individual has no protection needs. The improving political and security situation in Sri Lanka has meant it is safe to remove people there."

Before the Sri Lankans were deported from the UK on a chartered flight which left London on Thursday, some of the Tamils affected reportedly told the BBC that their lives were in danger back home.

The deportation also took place despite calls from human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch urged the UK not to deport Tamils to Sri Lanka, warning that they face the risk of being tortured.

Amnesty also revealed that at least one of the failed asylum seekers had tried to commit suicide on Wednesday night at an airport detention facility.

The human rights organisation says that it has "documented the endemic use of torture in Sri Lanka and a culture of impunity prevails".

Before the deportation the organisation had already warned that "If the UK authorities were to rely on assurances drawn from the reported experiences of people returned to Sri Lanka over a year ago, that would not take into account the intervening increased hostility expressed by the Sri Lankan Government, in response to calls for an inquiry into war crimes committed at the end of the civil war.

"In such a climate, we would be alarmed if returns were being considered without an adequate assessment of the current threats to the safety of individuals, in a contemporary Sri Lanka, where tensions run high."

Sam Zarifi, Asia Programme Director at Amnesty also, told Channel 4 News: "It is known that rejected asylum seekers have been detained and tortured.

While the British immigration authorities have refused to comment on the deportations in detail, Immigration Minister Damian Green however said on Thursday that the UK "takes its international responsibilities seriously and considers each claim for asylum on its individual merits", thus backing up the claim of the Home Office that that it only undertakes returns to Sri Lanka when it is satisfied that the individual has no protection needs.

However following the vast amount of critics from human rights organisations, activists and lawyers, the issue was raised in the UK parliament on Thursday.

Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh said that two of the Tamils concerned were her constituents. One, who she named as Jenach Gopinath, was formerly employed by a leading Tamil MP who has subsequently been arrested and detained by the Sri Lankan authorities.

"They are desperate and understandably so," she said before adding that the Tamil who allegedly tried to commit suicide did so with a prison duvet and had to go to hospital.

He is believed to be a 30-year-old man who served with the Tamil Tigers. The man reportedly told the BBC's Tamil service on Wednesday that his life would be in jeopardy if he was sent back.