Colombo: Sri Lankan authorities have asked over 160 foreign Islamic clerics, including Indians, to leave the nation after accusing them of violating immigration laws as they were not allowed to preach religion on a tourist visa.
Immigration authorities said the clerics belonging to `Tabligh Jamat`, a Muslim religious movement, were mostly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives and Arab. They had entered Sri Lanka on tourist visas last month.
"They have been involved in religious preaching having entered as tourists," said Chulananda Perera, the Controller of Immigration and Emigration.
The Islamic clerics have been asked to leave the country by January 31.
Officials maintained that the decision was not based on any political grounds and it was purely a matter of visa abuse.
They had entered the country on visit visas valid for 30 days. The visas could be extended on application for further two months.
Sri Lanka from January 01 this year introduced its electronic travel authorisation (ETA) system replacing the on-arrival visa regime. Only the nationals of Maldives and Singapore are issued on-arrival visas as a reciprocation gesture.
Authorities said the main purpose of the ETA was to prevent the abuse of the on-arrival system.