Sri Lanka opens land border to international travellers

Sri Lanka has reopened its land border to international travellers, days after closures by authorities prevented scores of people from entering the island.

People were being allowed to cross over from India, Bangladesh and Nepal, the officials said.

The decision came as hundreds of people assembled outside the UN headquarters in Colombo seeking to return to Sri Lanka.

Calls to reopen the border had intensified after an estimated 3,000-5,000 ethnic Tamil asylum seekers were prevented from leaving Sri Lanka in recent days.

The Sri Lankan authorities temporarily closed several land borders to “protect people against radicalism”.

Officials say they have been responding to allegations that civilians were targeted by Tamil Tiger rebels and their allies during the government’s final phase of its civil war against the rebels.

But Colombo has faced an international outcry for locking up thousands of Tamil asylum seekers – mostly women and children – in limbo in refugee camps.

The UN says Sri Lanka is taking too long to provide passports to asylum seekers while asylum seekers languish in a legal limbo.

“We are restoring our land borders to international traffic,” Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, the Sri Lankan Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, said on Saturday.

“I wish to state that these steps were taken with the greatest concern for the safety and security of citizens,” he added.


There are no official figures on the number of Tamils who left Sri Lanka in recent weeks but reports from Tamil migrant workers say the number of those leaving had been rising.

Earlier this week, Sri Lanka deported 153 ethnic Tamil asylum seekers from Indonesia, with the average length of stay there being about six months.

Lack of accommodation in the camps has also been a major problem for some of the people who arrived since they want to visit their families.

The refugees must stay in the camps for three years but want to avoid that to be able to live in Sri Lanka.

On Saturday, several hundred people headed to the UN headquarters in Colombo to protest against the forced repatriation of Tamils to Sri Lanka from other countries.

“We want our asylum seekers back,” said Vijay Puttu, a Sri Lankan asylum seeker.

Many Tamils argue that their fellow compatriots in the war-torn north of the island should be allowed to return to their former homeland.

Leave a Comment