Big rise in rejection of torture claimants

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 5:12am

There has been a tenfold increase in the number of people deported after failing to seek sanctuary from oppression in their home countries over the past three years, official figures reveal.

The Immigration Department's screening process for torture claimants was ruled to break local laws and international treaties by the Court of Final Appeal in December.

Last year, 677 torture claimants were "deported or removed", up from 426 in 2011 and just 56 in 2010, according to the Security Bureau's reply to the Legislative Council yesterday.

Meanwhile, the number of torture claims filed to the government has dropped steadily, down from 1,809 in 2010 to 1,174 last year. Bangladesh is the only country of origin which has seen a rise in the number of nationals claiming to have been tortured.

Most of the 1,159 deportees over the three-year period came from Indonesia, followed by India and Pakistan. At the other end of the scale, just three were from Ghana and Cameroon.

All the deportees' claims had been "finally determined as unsubstantiated", the bureau said. It did not address the court's ruling in its Legco response but said immigration officers would adhere to "the 'highest standards of fairness' as required by the court".

Cosmo Beatson, executive director of Vision First, a charity that assists torture claimants, said no more deportation should be made at this stage. "We call for the rescreening of cases that were refused," he added.

He said all the department's decisions involved rejections, calling it a "mathematical impossibility". He added that in Europe and Australia, applications by torture claimants had a 25 to 38 per cent success rate.