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 Post subject: We beg you not to send us away
 Post Posted: Thu Jun 30, 2005 12:12 am 
We beg you not to send us away

29 June 2005
© 2005 Independent News and Media (NI)

The Somasundram family have spent four years pleading for asylum in Northern Ireland after fleeing their native Sri Lanka. Soma Somasundram's eldest son was shot dead by the Tamil Tigers, he was tortured and imprisoned by the authorities, and his wife and four other children received death threats. Karen Ireland hears how desperation led them to stow away in a container

Four years ago, 52-year-old Soma Somasundram and his family were thrown out of the back of a container and on to the streets of Belfast.

Soma, his wife Vino (46), and their four children, Sujatha (26), Raj (18 yrs), Kousalyaa (17) and Vyishnu (13), were dumped on the Newtownards Road with just £20.

The family had no idea where they were and, furthermore, had never even heard of Belfast. A few days earlier they had been smug gled out of Trincomalee in their native Sri Lanka, where they feared for their lives.

In broken English, an emotional Soma recalls the horrific circumstances which led to them ending up in a city where they have spent the past four years pleading for asylum status.

"In Sri Lanka I owned a fruit and vegetable shop and had a van which my eldest son Karigalan and I used to transport the goods," he says.

"The terrorist organisation the Tamil Tigers forced us at gun point to transport arms for them and, on one occasion, my son was intercepted by the armed forces and shot dead.

"When I arrived to collect his body I was arrested and thrown into prison, where I was tortured for days. Meanwhile, my wife and family were also tortured and harassed and received many death threats from the Tigers.

"When I was finally released from jail I knew we could no longer remain in the country as we were being targeted from both sides. Our lives were no longer safe."

Soma sold his possessions and arranged to be smuggled out of the country.

FOUR long, horrendous days of travelling in the back of a container brought them to Northern Ireland.

Norman Uprichard, former headmaster of Newtownbreda High School, has been campaigning for the family. He picks up the story.

"It is difficult for Soma to talk about the incidents which brought him to Northern Ireland," he says. "He lost his son and then his family had to suffer torture and abuse. They are all still traumatised by that and the journey here has scared them too.

"When they arrived, they got help from the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities who got them accommodation immediately and put them in touch with the local education board, who placed two of the older children at Newtownbreda High - which is how I became involved with the family.

"I realised early on just how much they had suffered and recognised that all they needed was a chance to become a real asset to the local community.

"Raj and Kousalyaa have really excelled at school and fitted in so well. They had never gone to a mainstream school before. Their father was so worried about them being kidnapped by the Tigers he had them schooled at home. But here they feel safe and secure. The whole family do.

"As asylum seekers they are not allowed to work so both Soma and Sujatha do volunteer work for local churches and community groups, while Vino takes care of the home."

SOMA says that, while the family feels safe in Belfast, there is always the fear that immigration officers could come and lift them at any time. Going back to Sri Lanka would be like sentencing the family to death, he claims.

Norman, who has been lobbying on behalf of the Somasundram Family Support Committee for the past three years, explains: "What they desperately need and deserve is to be given their status so they can get on with the rest of their lives.

"We've been writing to politicians, meeting with solicitors, doing everything within our power to try to get this case heard, but we keep coming up against brick walls."

Soma adds: "Our future remains uncertain. We have to take things one day at a time. It has been tough on all of us, particularly my wife. Vino struggles with things from time to time.

"She especially found the tsunami difficult to come to terms with and all the lives that were lost. Our region was hit hard and we lost friends and family.

"But we have had nothing but support and acceptance here within the community we live in.

"People have welcomed us with open arms and gone out of their way to help us."

A proud man, Soma reveals it has been difficult for him, too, going from being a middle class businessman to relying on benefits of just over £30 a week to support his family.

"But while the conflict remains I can never put my family at the kind of risk again. We have already lost one son," he adds.

"We want to stay here and build a future. I have studied since arriving here and am now a qualified engineer.

"I just want to provide for my family and give them a safe and secure future. What father wouldn't?"

You can support the Somasundram family in their fight for asylum status by contacting NormanUprichard@aol.com

 Post subject: DON'T SEND US TO HELL
 Post Posted: Sun Jul 03, 2005 8:36 pm 
Family who fled death to be deported

By Himaya Quasem
@ SundayMail Jul 3 2005

A COUPLE who paid £6000 to flee to Scotland over fears they would be killed risk being deported - to a home destroyed by the tsunami. Army bosses in Indika De Silva's native Sri Lanka are hunting him because he discovered they were selling weapons and ammunition to terrorists.

Terrified asylum seeker Indika, 29 - who lives with wife Dihani, 28, and three-month-old daughter Sandapumi in the Red Road flats, Balornock, Glasgow - said: 'If we go back our lives will be in danger. But we don't have any idea how much longer we can stay.'

The family were served a court order to leave Scotland on March 8 - the day before their daughter was born - but they won a suspended deportation If sent home, they are in danger from furious army bosses. And they are homeless, as Indika's home in Ambalangoda, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, was washed away in the Boxing Day tsunami, which also claimed the lives of his uncle, aunt and cousin.

Indika had to flee three years ago after learning the army, where he was working as a logistics expert, were selling weapons to terrorist Tamil Tigers.

His boss, a commander, tried to transfer him to the northern town of Jaffna.

But Indika fled as three of his colleagues who had been sent there went missing. One managed to call and warn him not to come. After months in hiding, Indika and Dihani paid an 'agent' £6000 to come to Scotland.

He said: 'That army commander is still in his position and now we don't have a home it will be even harder for us to hide from him.

'We are also worried that it will be a lot easier for people like us to go 'missing' because of the aftermath of the tsunami.

'One day, we want to go back to our country and rebuild it but it's still not safe for us.'

The De Silvas are among hundreds of failed asylum-seekers who face being deported to tsunami-devastated regions.

The Government have only offered a temporary three-month reprieve to asylum seekers from the area and those from Zimbabwe.

Scottish Refugee Council manager Peter Barry said: 'Sri Lanka is on the government's list of safe countries but there is evidence of persecution.'

The Home Office said failed asylum seekers would only have deportation suspended if from tsunami-devastated areas. They added: 'The length of time they will be allowed to stay will be under constant review

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