Sri Lankan couple with 'well-founded fear' granted refugee status after family members slain

By Lincoln Tan

A Sri Lankan police commando. The husband and wife told the Immigration and Protection Tribunal they feared for their lives back in Sri Lanka. Photo / AP
A Sri Lankan police commando. The husband and wife told the Immigration and Protection Tribunal they feared for their lives back in Sri Lanka. Photo / AP

A Sri Lankan couple fearing harm after their family members were shot and killed by underworld criminal have been granted refugee status.

The husband and wife told the Immigration and Protection Tribunal they feared for their lives because of familial connection to the husband's late father and uncle, who had both been allegedly assassinated.

The uncle was shot and killed allegedly by underworld criminal after he attempted to uncover Sri Lankan government corruption and the father killed after seeking justice for the uncle's killing.

The alleged killers have not be prosecuted and remain at large.

The husband is Sinhalese and a Buddhist, and was born in Colombo in the late 1980s.

After completing his schooling in 2007, he moved to a country named by the tribunal only as "O" to live with his uncle, father and older brother.

The uncle started receiving threats and on April 10, 2010 made a police complaint.

A day later he was shot but didn't prove fatal, but died after he was shot a second time on a busy street on a separate occasion.

A drug dealer was charged for the murder but was not convicted.

In October that year, the father sought protection by writing to the President.

But the father was also shot and killed by unknown assailants.

Reports stated that the killer as someone hired by an "underworld figure".

The husband started receiving threatening phone calls in 2012 and 2013 while overseas.
He returned to Sri Lanka in mid 2013 after his visa had expired.

But while returning from a hospital appointment, a car they were travelling in was shot at.

"After the shot there was great commotion...his mother, sister-in-law and wife were crying and screaming," the tribunal was told.

The husband was granted a one-month New Zealand limited purpose visa in November 2013.

However, he did not use it because he did not want to leave his younger brother as the only remaining male family member in Sri Lanka.

In April 2014 after three men attacked his mother and asked about the whereabouts of her children, he realised he needed to leave.

He fled to New Zealand and was joined by the wife a few months later.

The tribunal also heard evidence from the husband's older brother and the brother's wife.
It accepted the credibility of the couple and witnesses' accounts.

"On the facts as found, the Tribunal is satisfied, that there is a real chance that the husband and the wife will be seriously harmed if they were to return to Sri Lanka, by (underworld criminal) or his associates, or by (Mahinda) Rajapaksa supporters seeking revenge for attempts to bring him to justice for the deaths and uncover political links to the criminal underworld," the tribunal decision said.

"The husband and wife's relationship to (the husband's older brother) and the fact that they would be the only direct family members in Sri Lanka mean there is a real chance they will be harmed."

It found they each had a "well-founded fear" of being persecuted and concluded the couple were entitled to be recognised as refugees.

- Herald on Sunday

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