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News flash on Sri Lanka charter flight

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It is Sri Lanka Charter Flight day again today. Just a quick one to say that the UK Border Agency has suddenly withdrawn parts of its new October 2012 Operational Guidance Note (link to old version) on Sri Lanka. Paragraphs 3.3.4 and 13.6 have been substantially amended (see TAG website for details). It would seem that several of the passages about the safety of return were simply not true. This is, shall we say, consistent with recent comments by the Foreign Affairs Committee in their report on human rights work in 2011:

We find it unsatisfactory that the Government has not been more forthcoming to Parliament about its efforts—in general and in specific cases—to assess the level of risk to the safety of those who are removed from the UK…

…We welcome the new channel of communication established between FCO officials, non-governmental organisations and the UK Border Agency to discuss the assessment of risk to those who are removed from the UK. We encourage the FCO to be energetic in evaluating reports by non-governmental organisations and media sources of torture of deportees from the UK, including in Sri Lanka, and in spelling out the risk to the UK Border Agency. We also request that the Government clarify the division between the roles of the FCO and of the UK Border Agency’s Country of Origin Information Service in gathering the intelligence needed to make accurate assessments of the risk to deportees upon their return to their country of origin.

Could it be that the UK Border Agency is being a little over eager to remove and massaging the country information in order to achieve that objective? This incident certainly calls into question the dual role of provider of country information and decision maker that the UK Border Agency has historically demanded it retain.

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The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.

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