After a series of diplomatic setbacks in the West, beginning with the aborted lecture-visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to England and the Wikileaks cables from the U.S. embassy, the country finally has some respite.

The Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) has said merely because a person is Tamil, his or her life is not in danger if he or she is sent back to Sri Lanka (and denied refugee status in Canada).

IRB Deputy Chairperson (Refugee Protection Division) Ken Sandhu said: “After due consideration, I am of the view that the reasons for decision…are of persuasive value in regard to claimants from Sri Lanka seeking protection due to their fear of the Sri Lankan army, government officials and paramilitary agents associated with the Sri Lankan government as members of a particular social group, namely ‘young male Tamils from northern Sri Lanka'. The reasons cite the documentary evidence which relates to changes that took place in Sri Lanka recently and conclude with a finding that the changes are meaningful and durable and that the claimant's fear of persecution based on his particular social group, perceived political opinion and nationality is not well founded.”

The decision was first reported in the Canadian Globe and Mail. Its website quoting IRB, said: “Although refugee board adjudicators aren't forced to follow the new guideline, the IRB said such notes ‘are offered to members as models of sound reasoning that may be adopted in appropriate circumstances'.” “The policy, which could affect refugee claimants who arrived in Canada aboard the Ocean Lady and MV Sun Sea, is being challenged in court by a lawyer who says it is not legally sound. The note was also criticized by activists, who suggested it could put lives in danger.”

The Sri Lankan President's Policy Research and Information Unit was quick to pick up the story but did not offer any comment. However, officials were of the opinion that this reflected the situation on the ground in Sri Lanka and they hoped other countries too took their decisions on Sri Lanka, based on facts on the ground.

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