Lawyers called for the new Constitution to provide a clear legal interpretation regarding refugees, undocumented persons, asylum-seekers, those sans visa, those who overstay their visa, foreigners and visitors.

Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) noted that while foreigners had rights, they would lose their rights the moment their status shifted to undocumented or no visa.

TISL Chairman, Attorney-at-Law Lakshan Dias said that in Honk Kong, there were nearly 1,000 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers, who for long periods have been caught up in the extremely tedious immigration process. Some such families like the one which provided a temporary safe haven to former National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden are facing probable detention subsequent to arrest or deportation.

Article 3 of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment states that no State which is a Party to the Convention can expel or return/refoule or extradite a person of another State where there are substantial grounds to believe that he or she would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

What about the right to work and study, he queried, adding that in the case of Hong Kong, under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, children who fell into the aforementioned categories were allowed to study locally.

“There is a recent influx of refugees and asylum-seekers from Pakistan. The international law aspect is not very strong here.

Nation States are very careful with regard to foreign people visiting here. They don’t mind them coming temporarily. There is no clear indication that the country is going to sign and ratify the relevant Conventions in this regard. This is a dark area. If we accept refugees, there is going to be a huge influx. A clear policy and judicial interpretation is essential,” Dias explained. (RLJ)