Minister of Finance and Media Mangala Samaraweera last week condemned the attack carried out on Rohingya refugees when they were housed in a safe house in Mount Lavinia under the care of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“In fact, I condemn these actions, not only as the Minister in charge of Media. I am also condemning it as a Buddhist, a Buddhist who is very proud of the fact that Buddhism is a religion of non-violence and compassion,” he said in his statement which was posted on his official Twitter handle.
He clarified that the refugees, 30 of them from Myanmar, were rescued by the Navy at sea in April this year, and added that they were looked after by the UNHCR until they were resettled elsewhere in a third country, the United States or Canada.
“In fact, this is not the first time Sri Lanka has given temporary shelter to such refugees. In fact, way back in 2008, in March 2008, again the Sri Lanka Navy rescued survivors off a boat after they were found adrift in the high seas, and they were kept here until 2012, when these people were resettled in the United States of America,” Samaraweera added.
Samaraweera stated that two more groups of refugees from Rohingya were rescued by the Navy in 2013, from a shipwreck in the eastern coast of Sri Lanka. Accordingly, the groups contained 138 and 32 of refugees.
Those refugees too were looked after by the UNHCR until they were sent to Canada and the USA in 2014 and in 2015.
“It is a shameful act and every right-minded citizen of this country especially Buddhists must condemn this action by this so called priests and I also urge the police to take the strongest possible action against the perpetrators of these crimes against these innocent refugees,” he said.
UN Refugee Agency statement over incident at Colombo refugee shelter
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is alarmed and concerned by yesterday’s incident at a refugee shelter housing mostly women and children on the outskirts of Colombo.
On Tuesday, a group protested outside the shelter housing 31 refugees – most of them women and children – who had been rescued by the Sri Lankan Navy from a boat in Sri Lankan waters in April this year. The refugees were eventually evacuated to safety by the authorities to whom UNHCR is grateful for support and protection extended to refugees.
UNHCR is equally concerned for the safety and security of our partner’s staff present during the incident who were providing humanitarian assistance to the refugees.
UNHCR emphasizes that refugees are victims of violence and persecution who need international protection and assistance. UNHCR urges the public and all those concerned with refugees to continue extending protection and to show empathy for civilians fleeing persecution and violence.
In Sri Lanka, the presence of refugees and asylum-seekers is authorized by the Government. In consultation with the authorities, UNHCR provides assistance to refugees until longer-term solutions can be found.