Bangkok: Thailand is holding 128 Tamil migrants
for possible deportation even though some have registered with
the United Nations as asylum seekers, authorities said on Wednesday.
Police originally arrested 155 people, but some were
freed because they were able to present valid travel
documents, said Colonel Worawat Amornwiwat, a spokesman for
the immigration service.
"These people are minority Tamils fleeing war in their
country and seeking asylum through the UN. But they came to
Thailand with tourist visas, allowing them to stay only 60
days, and they overstayed," he said.
Some of those arrested on Monday have papers showing
that they have already applied to the UN for refugee status,
Worawat said that authorities would contact the Sri
Lankan embassy in order to send back those charged with
breaching their visas.
He added that there was no provision for Sri Lankan
refugees in Thailand, despite their registration with the
United Nations. No one from the UN refugee agency was
immediately available to comment.
Activists based in Canada, which has recently sought
to change its immigration laws in response to the arrival of
boats carrying hundreds of Tamil refugees, said those arrested
in Thailand were genuinely in need of protection.
The Tamil refugees in Thailand may be persecuted if
they return home and are "likely to face torture," the
Canadian Tamil Congress said.
"We are very disturbed by the arrests as it includes
genuine refugees seeking international protection," the group
said in a statement.
Sri Lanka`s crackdown on the Tamil Tigers, which ended
a lengthy civil war last year, has resulted in a flood of
people seeking asylum in other countries.