Activist of Tamil Solidarity and LSP arrested to be deported from Belgium. Belgian authorities collaborate with murderous Sri Lankan regime
42 year old Muruganandam Murugathas, Thas to his friends, was arrested on Tuesday morning and brought to a closed centre for asylum seekers in Steenokkerzeel, in reality a deportation camp.
Thas was arrested after he brought his children to school, his wife having left earlier to go to work. Despite struggling to get them after 18 years in Belgium, Thas, a Tamil from Sri Lanka, still has no official papers. That was the reason given for his arrest.
Thas is a leading activist in the international campaign Tamil Solidarity. He has been present on many protest actions of the Tamil community in Belgium. He tries to help to organise the community, but also wants to fight politically.
Thas is not only active on issues regarding the Tamil community. He is a committed participant in the labour movement in Antwerp. In the past months he was present on different picket lines, demonstrations and he helped in the election campaign with Rood! (a broad left list that includes the Linkse Socialistiche Partij, of which Thas is also a member) for the council elections of 14 October.
This attack is even more shocking as it comes in the light of the a recent leaked report showing that the United Nations failed in its mandate to protect civilians in the last months of Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war. Channel 4’s Killing Fields documentaries graphically exposed what took place during the war in 2009. It’s now estimated that 75,000+ were killed. The military constantly bombed hospitals, schools, temporary shelters and so-called ‘no fire zones’. Every single one of 400,000 refugees was then taken to ‘detention camps’ with no proper facilities. Deaths and gross humanitarian abuses took place during the transportation and in the camps. In the aftermath, over three years on, Tamil people continue to suffer gross violations of their human rights.
The life of someone who is known as a Tamil activist in Europe is in serious danger if he or she is sent back to Sri Lanka. Even the British high court has ordered that the imminent deportation to Sri Lanka of a number of Tamils be halted amid claims they may be tortured on their return. Human Rights Watch published a devastating report on Tamils who were sent back:http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/related_material/UK%20Sri%20Lanka%20deportees%20tortured%20final_0.pdf
Despite the terrible risks to his life, the Belgian authorities want to send Thas back; back to a country where he has not been for 18 years, away from his wife and two young children.
This arrest comes at a moment where Thas and his family are struggling to get their marriage made official. This was always a problem because of paper issues, but now that his wife has all the necessary papers they filed a demand to marry. This has taken a lot of time, not least because it was very difficult to obtain the necessary documents from Sri Lanka (like a birth certificate). The Sri Lankan embassy in Brussels is doing all it can to avoid giving documents to Tamil people, or it takes months and costs a lot of money.
Thas could only speak for half an hour on the phone. He said he was shocked but he doesn’t give up. He is afraid to be deported at the end of November. In the same detention centre there is another Tamil who is due to be sent back possibly on 27 November. Thas was first of all concerned for his wife and children (aged seven and four years).
On the other hand we also have to make clear that in the past years, especially since the genocidal slaughter of the Tamil people in 2009, Thas has been very active in protests and campaigns. This record of political activity will increase the risk to his life if he’s now sent back.
Both Tamil Solidarity and the CWI protest against the possible deportation of Muruganandam Murugathas. Sending him back means breaking a family with young children, a family that after years of misery finally had a perspective of starting to build a future. It also means sending a political activist to the hands of a regime that has shown what how ruthlessly it deals with anyone it perceives to pose a threat to its existence.
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Below an exemple of a protest letter:
We strongly protest against the arrest of Muruganandam Murugathas, a political activist from Tamil origin (Sri Lanka) and father of two young children, on 13 November and taking him to the deportation centre of Steenokkerzeel. Deportation would break up a young family – his wife and young children (aged seven and four) have papers and the family was preparing all documents so that Murugathas could finally officially marry his wife.
As a political activist Murugathas is playing a role in the activities of the Tamil community in Belgium and as a member of the Linkse Socialistische Partij he was active in the labour movement.
The Sri Lankan regime is continuing to discriminate and persecute the Tamil minority in the country. There are hundreds of political prisoners and others are missing. If Murugathas is sent back, he will undoubtedly be persecuted by the Sri Lankan regime. he should not be sent back. We request you to allow him to stay in Belgium with his family and continue his invaluable contribution to the Tamil community.
Let Murugathas know you support him and the campaign to liberate him. Send your message to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get it to him.
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