Expulsion of Tamil activist stopped!

antwerp16A prominent activist of Tamil Solidarity in Belgium, Muruganandam Murugathas (Thas to friends), was threatened with expulsion and deportation to Sri Lanka. After having lived in Belgium for 18 years his papers were still not regularised. Thas was one of the victims of the repressive asylum policies against ‘illegal’ immigrants.

European governments started to send Tamil refugees back to Sri Lanka with the argument that the war in that country is finished. The bloodshed in the final stage of the war in 2009 has not led to peace, democracy and stability. There is continuing violence and discrimination of Tamil people, worsened by economic problems. There is evidence that Tamil refugees who are deported from Europe becoming victims of torture and human rights abuses. This surely also would have been the case with Thas who is known to the Sri Lankan authorities as a political activist.

On 13th November, during the Divali festivities, Thas was arrested at his home when his wife was at work and his children at school. The authorities took him to a closed camp near the airport to be deported. Tamil Solidarity campaign immediately started a public campaign to stop this deportation. In the first days of his detention, Thas even got a phone call from the Sri Lanka embassy in Brussels to ask when he would go back and what the address of his wife and children is. That was a clear example of intimidation.

The campaign against the deportation of Thas received a lot of support from friends, comrades and political activists in Belgium and internationally. Member of European Parliament Paul Murphy (Socialist Party, Ireland) raised his case in parliament. With legal aid from his lawyer and political aid from his comrades in the LSP (Left Socialist Party) and the CWI, Thas deposed a new application for political asylum. His last application to stay in Belgium for political reasons was done before the 2009 bloodshed and before his political involvement in Belgium. In recent years Thas tried to get papers on the basis of having a family here.

With the pressure of the campaign and despite the tough new asylum procedure, we were able to obtain a victory and Thas was released on 2nd January of this year. The deportation has been halted and Thas can return to his wife, two children, friends and comrades. He thanks everyone who supported him, this solidarity is an essential element in our fight for a better future.

Geert Cool

Antwerp, Belgium