Restrictions eased on Sri Lankan refugees to get passports - InfoNews

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Restrictions eased on Sri Lankan refugees to get passports

June 02, 2016 - 2:10 AM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Sri Lanka lifted a ban on issuing passports to its citizens who sought refuge abroad from violent conflict or political persecution, saying the ban issued by a previous government violated the rights of citizens forced to flee for their own safety.

The Foreign Ministry rescinded the 2011 order to not issue passports "to those who had applied or gained refugee status or asylum in another country unless they have renounced their refugee or asylum status," according to a ministry statement late Wednesday.

The statement said the instructions had caused hardship for "many Sri Lankans who were forced to leave the country for political reasons and denied a Sri Lankan travel document."

It is believed thousands of Sri Lankans were forced to flee during the 26-year civil war that ended in 2009, when government forces crushed Tamil Tiger rebels who were fighting to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils.

The government that came to power last year promised to ensure greater freedom and human rights, after the past government led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was accused of gross human-rights violations.

Under Rajapaksa, journalists and activists who fled the country were labelled as traitors by the state-run media and accused of conspiring with foreign nations to topple his government.

The new government earlier lifted bans on some Tamil expatriate groups that had previously supported the separatist cause, with the aim of opening communication with the expatriate groups.

The Foreign Ministry's statement said the new government is committed to ensuring the people the "freedom of movement and travel irrespective of their political beliefs."

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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