ONE of Scotland’s most senior judges has said Theresa May “acted unreasonably” when she dismissed a former Sri Lankan militant’s asylum bid after he claimed his life would be at risk if he returned home.
Former Lord Advocate Lord Boyd of Duncansby said that during her time as Home Secretary May was wrong to reject the unnamed petitioner’s bid to remain in the Scotland by concluding he had no realistic prospect of success.
And the judge said the then Home Secretary had been “too ready to dismiss” letters from the petitioner’s sister in Sri Lanka highlighting threats to the man.
Two years ago the Freedom from Torture advocacy group raised concerns that the UK continued to deport militants who fought a civil war to create an independent state in the north and east of Sri Lanka for Tamil people.
The armed group, known as the Tamil Tigers, were defeated by the Sri Lankan military in 2009 after almost 28 years of conflict.
Many of the Tamil fighters fled the country following their capitulation and sought political asylum in other countries, including Scotland.
There has been evidence that Sri Lankan security forces have systematically tortured those suspected of dissident activity despite the civil war ending seven years ago.
Lord Boyd made his comments while considering a judicial review over a refusal by the Home Secretary in November 2015 to allow further evidence in what amounted to a fresh claim of asylum for the unidentified Sri Lankan who has been battling to remain in Scotland for eight years.
The fresh documents include statements from Sri Lankan Tamils who have been granted refugee status in the UK and letters from the asylum seeker’s sisters who still live in Sri Lanka.
The siblings state that the asylum seeker, formerly with the Tamil Tigers rebels and its breakaway faction, the Karuna Group in Sri Lanka, was involved in demonstrations in Scotland and London against the country’s government and his activity has put him at risk were he to return.
The demonstrations were in support of the Tamil state as part of a campaign for an investigation into allegations of human rights abuses by the Sri Lankan authorities.
One of the witnesses said the petitioner had revealed that he was frightened to go back to Sri Lanka because he would be targeted by the state.
A letter from one of the asylum seeker’s sisters, dated July 2013, said his older sister was “unable to tolerate the torture” in Sri Lanka and that she had fled her home village.
But despite relocating, she said that the torture had continued and the older sister had sent the younger brother and her two sons to sanctuary in a foreign country. The sister also wrote that she does not live in their former house because she had received threats of violence from unknown people.
She said: “However, the menace does not stop there.
“If I do not tell them where you are they have threatened to kill our younger brother so I have sent our younger brother to a foreign country.”
But in dealing with the sisters’ letters, the Home Secretary said there was no evidence that the threats had been reported to the police authorities and that one letter on its own did not provide proof or verification that threats have taken place. But Lord Boyd said it would be “wrong” to ignore the letters on the basis that they had not been immediately submitted upon their receipt. The judge said he was not satisfied the Home Secretary had fulfilled the requirement of “anxious scrutiny” in considering the asylum seeker’s case.
Lord Boyd, in overturning the Home Secretary’s decision, believed that there was evidence before her from which the inference could be drawn that the petitioner was at risk on return to Sri Lanka. The judge said: “If taken together at face value, in my opinion, there was evidence from which the Secretary of State could conclude that there is a realistic prospect of success before an immigration judge.”
Lord Boyd added: “I also consider that she has been too ready to dismiss the letters from the petitioner’s sister on the basis that the threats had not been reported to the police and did not provide proof that the threats had taken place.
“It seems to me to be unrealistic to expect that such threats, if made, would be reported to the police. The letters themselves are offered as proof that threats were made to the family. “Accordingly, I conclude that the Secretary of State acted unreasonably in concluding that there was no realistic prospect of success in an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal.” ( Herald Scotland)