§ Mr. Maples
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is his policy towards the return of Sri Lankan Tamils from the United Kingdom to Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Brittan
Since the outbreak of widespread communal violence in Sri Lanka in July 1983, we have kept the situation there under close review in considering applications for leave to enter or remain in this country from Sri Lankan Tamils who have expressed a fear of return to Sri Lanka. Since April 1984 no Sri Lankan Tamil who has expressed such a fear has been removed or deported to Sri Lanka against his will. As a result there are now some 900 Sri Lankan Tamils in this country who do not qualify to remain here but whose departure has not been enforced.
While the situation in Sri Lanka continues to cause concern, there is no reason to believe that Tamils returning to Sri Lanka face persecution, and few Sri Lankan Tamils are likely to qualify for refugee status in this country. A large proportion of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka has been relatively unaffected by inter-communal violence, and I do not consider that the situation is such as to justify a general policy of granting leave to enter or remain on an exceptional basis to all Tamils who express a fear to return there.
I have therefore decided that any case in which a Sri Lankan Tamil fails to qualify for leave to enter or remain under the immigration rules but expresses a fear of returning to Sri Lanka should be considered on its merits, in the light of all the circumstances of the case. Such a person will be granted leave to remain on an exceptional basis (for 12 months in the first instance) only if there is reason to believe that he would suffer severe hardship if he returned to Sri Lanka. If he is unable to satisfy this test, he will be returned to Sri Lanka. This policy will be applied immediately to new and recent arrivals.
Those Sri Lankan Tamils who have been here for more than a month without leave to enter or remain, but whose departure has not been enforced will be granted leave to remain exceptionally for six months. Their cases will then be reviewed on the basis outlined above. Normal appeal rights will apply.
The Government will continue to urge on all concerned the need for a political settlement of the difficulties between the communities in Sri Lanka.