Supporters of former army commander General Sarath Fonseka try to block a water cannon truck during a protest against Fonseka's arrest in Colombo.
Supporters of former army commander General Sarath Fonseka try to block a water cannon truck during a protest against Fonseka's arrest in Colombo. Reuters

Following the broadcast of channel 4 documentary Sri Lanka's killing fields, three of the forty failed Sri Lankan asylum-seekers, scheduled to be forcibly removed from Gatwick to Colombo today, have had their deportations deferred.

One of these cases, that of a young Tamil woman, was the subject of a judicial review, and the judge found in her favour. The other two deferrals are the result of a Home Office review, unprompted by any legal requirement to do so.

It has also been reported thats that several other applications for judicial review are to be lodged this morning, just hours before the removal flight,

Channel 4 claimed it had obtained a Government document confirming the intention to get the flight airborne by 5pm tonight.

The document allegedly shows that a young woman, whose case will now be reconsidered, had complained that a potentially incriminating document had been passed to officials from the Sri Lankan High Commission in London by the Home Office..

The Channel claims that the Home Office had confirmed that the document concerned, an internal Sri Lankan police memo, had indeed been passed to the Sri Lankans as proof of the woman's nationality. However, it also insisted that "a spokesman denied, however, that this amounted to a breach of confidentiality as no personal details were contained in the document."

The other two deferrals and the pending judicial reviews all relate to similar allegations, that potentially incriminating documentation had been passed to the Sri Lankans.

Observers hope that owing to concerns that others among the 40 to be removed have experienced similar problems the planned removal flight might be grounded.

Lawyers and activists also voiced their anger as they say there is what they call a "systematic" problem at the Home Office and in those conditions they insist it could be deemed sufficiently of concern to warrant mass-deferral.

Channel 4 also allegedlyobtained a letter from the Home Office's solicitors to the Royal Courts of Justice regarding today's flight. The extract revealed on the TV channel website is quite controversial, especially in the light of the calls yesterday by both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Office minister for the Sri Lankan government to be more accountable and more transparent with regards to the persecution of Tamils on the island.

"Tamils are not per se at risk of serious harm from the Sri Lankan authorities in Colombo. A number of factors may increase the risk..." the letter allegedly says.

Further describing the document, Channel 4 adds that "It goes on to detail these risk factors, which include "return from London" and "having made an asylum claim abroad." Because those being removed from Britain tomorrow arrive back on a chartered aircraft, it will be well known that they are failed asylum-seekers.

The Home office told us yesterday 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."

It is good to know then that the Home Office is convinced that the Island went from a country where disappearances and extra-judicial executions still occur in the country, as its report on Human Rights in Sri Lanka, published in April this year, says, to a place that is now absolutely safe. Another option however might be that despite concerns for human rights, work is work and the immigration quotas still need to be respected.