The Foreign Ministry has sought a detailed report from the Sri Lankan Embassy in London on the reported hunger strike by Sri Lankans at detention centres in Britain and has also sought information from the British Foreign Office, Foreign Ministry sources told the Daily Mirror yesterday.
Meanwhile the Daily Mirror has learnt that the protest which began at the Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre last week has spread to several other detention centres around Britain including Hampshire, Cambridgeshire and Gatwick.
`So far we have not got any information on the said hunger strike but we are still following it up. We contacted the British Embassy here, the Sri Lankan Embassy in London and the British Foreign Office,` a Foreign Ministry official said.
Meanwhile the BBC reported that there were about 28 detainees on hunger strike at Harmondsworth in London, 23 were refusing food at Oakington, Cambridgeshire and 10 were protesting at Haslar, Hampshire.
A Government spokeswoman said staff cannot force detainees to eat as it would be seen as an assault.
The spokeswoman said: `The situation remains calm at all three centres and the Border and Immigration Agency is actively engaging with detainees to discuss their concerns. `Detention is an essential element in the effective enforcement of immigration control. We are unable to force detainees to eat or drink as this would be against their wishes and would be classed as an assault. We do ensure, however, that they receive medical treatment as and when necessary.`
Earlier on July 9, two Tamil Jaffna residents, Subramaniam Aloysius Jude Christy and Kobalasamy Illayarajah who had sought refugee status in Britain after fleeing the conflict in the North started a fast unto death as their applications had been turned down and they were subsequently placed at the Harmondsworth refugee detention centre in London. However by Saturday a further 27 Sri Lankan Tamils at the same detention centre joined in the strike further complicating the issue for the British authorities.
Latest reports from London said that members of the Tamil Lawyers Association in London met on Tuesday to discuss the latest developments. The group decided to contact British political leaders and request them to stop sending the asylum seekers back home until the situation improves in Sri Lanka. TNA Parliamentarian S. Sivagilingam also attended the meeting. One detainee at the Tinsley House Immigration Removal Centre had reportedly tried to kill himself because of fear of being sent back to Sri Lanka, reports said. Another asylum seeker at the Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre who fell ill due to hunger strike was temporarily sent to his sister`s home in Harrow when his sister visited the centre. The detainees are insisting they will not return to Sri Lanka because of the conflict and fear of maybe being arrested by Sri Lankan authorities once they return, a civilian source in London told The Daily Mirror earlier this week after speaking to one of the detainees.
One such detainee who was deported from London last week was arrested in Sri Lanka and is being detained in Negombo. CID sources at the Katunayake international airport confirmed to the Daily Mirror that the immigrant was arrested on the 18th of this month and placed under detention in Negombo.