A Tamil Asylum Diaspora: Sri Lankan Migration, Settlement and Politics in Switzerland

By Christopher McDowell | Go to book overview

finally, that since 1990 more than 1,000 Tamils had been forcibly returned to Sri Lanka from Europe (the majority from Switzerland) without any major mishaps.


Conclusion

To Swiss citizens and the government at all levels, the vaunted return to Sri Lanka of failed asylum seekers presented the most workable solution to control one important stream of immigration. The promise of immediate action and results was electorally attractive. Even a small reduction in the numbers of asylum seekers, particularly those who are most visible by virtue of their physical appearance, was easily reported in the press and sat alongside reports of other migration-related legislation, such as the decision that from 1996 seasonal workers from the former Yugoslavia (26,000 in 1994) would no longer receive permits to work in Switzerland ( NZZ 14 April 1994). It was clear, however, that the function of the Agreement was to deter, and at the time of writing it is most unlikely that there will be a large number of Tamils forcibly returned from Switzerland.

By no means did all of the press support repatriation. The views of NGO s, who accused policy officials of being anti-humanitarian, also featured in reports, but the main message was that 12,000 Sri Lankans who arrived in Switzerland after 1990 were liable to deportation. In concrete terms, between 1 May 1994 and 1 May 1996, up to 700 failed asylum seekers would be on their way to Sri Lanka. In the first six months of the agreement some 53 Tamils were forcibly returned, the number returning voluntarily was not known. However, as in Holland in 1985 where the deportation of a handful of Tamils led to 2,500 others crossing from Holland into Germany and elsewhere, such as Switzerland, Swiss aid organisations reported that up to 600 Tamils who were affected by the agreement 'escaped to other European countries' ( Chandra hasan 1989:74; Sri Lankan Monitor October 1994) e.g. Holland, bringing accusations that Switzerland (and Holland) was merely exporting a problem.

After the assassination in October 1994 of Sri Lanka opposition leader Gamini Dissanayake, the scheme was temporarily halted. Inevitably there will be similar interruptions as peace talks between the LTTE and Kumaratunga's government develop, and the numbers of Tamils returning voluntarily and non-voluntarily

-63-

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A Tamil Asylum Diaspora: Sri Lankan Migration, Settlement and Politics in Switzerland
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Contents vi
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • List of Abbreviations x
  • Glossary xi
  • Part One - Introduction and Research 1
  • 1 - Introduction -- Asylum Diaspora 3
  • 2 - Fieldwork and Research Methods 33
  • 3 - Swiss Public Opinion, Asylum Policy Reform and the Repatriation Agreement 46
  • Introduction 46
  • Conclusion 63
  • Part Two 67
  • 4 69
  • 5 - Sri Lanka 1983 to 1991 -- Conflict 94
  • Part Three - Tamil Asylum Entry into Switzerland 115
  • 6 - Switzerland's Tamil Asylum Migrant Population 117
  • Introduction 117
  • 7 - Early-Phase Asylum Migration 1983 to 1985 140
  • 8 - Middle-Phase Asylum Migration 1986 to 1988 170
  • Introduction 170
  • Summary 196
  • 9 - Late-Phase Asylum Migration 1989 to 1991 197
  • Introduction 197
  • Part Four - Diaspora Divisions, Formation and Politics 225
  • 10 - Immigrants and Asylum Seekers 227
  • Introduction 227
  • 11 - Politics in Exile: The Profits of Inertia 252
  • Introduction 252
  • Conclusion 265
  • Part Five 267
  • 12 - Conclusion 269
  • Bibliography 290
  • Index 303
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