A prominent activist with Tamil Solidarity in Belgium, Muruganandam Murugathas, (known to friends as Thas) was threatened with expulsion and deportation to Sri Lanka. Despite having lived in Belgium for 18 years, his papers were still not regularised. Thas was one of the victims of Belgium’s repressive asylum policies.
Since 2009 European governments have started to send Tamil refugees back to Sri Lanka with the argument that the war in that country is finished. The horrendous bloodshed in the final stage of the war in 2009 has not led to peace, democracy and stability. There is continuing violence and discrimination against Tamil people, worsened by economic problems. There is evidence that Tamil refugees who are deported from Europe become the victims of government-sponsored torture and human rights abuses. This was faced by Thas, who is known to the Sri Lankan authorities as a political activist.
On 13 November, during the Divali festivities, Thas was arrested at his home when his wife was at work and his children at school. The authorities took him to a closed camp near the airport to be deported. Tamil Solidarity immediately started a public campaign to stop this deportation. In the first days of his detention Thas received a phone call from the Sri Lankan embassy in Brussels asking when he would go back and what the address of his wife and children is. That was a clear example of intimidation.
The campaign against the deportation of Thas received a lot of support from friends, and political activists in Belgium and internationally. Member of European Parliament Paul Murphy (Socialist Party, Ireland) raised his case in the Parliament. With legal aid from his lawyer and political aid from his comrades in the LSP (Left Socialist Party) and the CWI, Thas deposed a new application for political asylum.
With the pressure of the campaign and the new asylum procedure we were able to obtain a victory. The deportation was halted and Thas has been able to return to his wife, two children, friends and comrades. He thanks everyone who supported him. This solidarity is an essential element in our fight for a better future.