Citizens being held at the airport despite valid visas
Pakistani nationals are being deported from the Colombo airport in Sri Lanka on the pretext that “2,000 Pakistanis have illegally sought asylum” in the country.
One passenger, a travel v-logger named Hasnain Manzoor, posted a video on his Facebook page about the situation. He told SAMAA Digital that he arrived in Colombo at 11:30pm on Tuesday from Kuala Lumpur with a valid visa. The Sri Lankan High Commission in Karachi confirmed that his visa, and that of another family stranded at the airport with him, is valid.
Manzoor said he was taken to a room to meet the chief immigration officer, who told him that they were being deported because 2,000 Pakistanis had sought asylum on tourist visas. However, an official of the Sri Lankan High Commission denied the claim. “Perhaps if they’re counting from the 1980s,” he said. The official also confirmed that no asylum-seeking case had even been registered from Pakistan in the last month.
Another immigration officer told Manzoor “They have doubts [about] you. Maybe you’re considered suspicious”.
“As I reached there, I saw two Pakistani families with three kids each,” said Manzoor. One family has already been deported, he added.
According to Manzoor, the Sri Lankan immigration authorities took custody of their passports and then handed them over to Malindo Air. The airline staff have custody of both their passports and luggage and haven’t been seen since 3am, he added. They have been restricted to a small corner of the airport and for six hours were not allowed to leave that area, even to go to the bathroom or get food.
“I have my e-visa and my return ticket along with a hotel booking. So I am not missing any documents and neither are the other families,” he said in his Facebook post.
One family had booked $2,000 worth of hotels, tickets and tours and had to cancel everything, Manzoor added. Manzoor was travelling to Sri Lanka after visiting Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia. He had a two-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur before arriving in Sri Lanka and the authorities said they are deporting him back to Kuala Lumpur, where the Malaysian authorities would decide where to send him.
“It’s the responsibility of Malindo Air, which we flew with, to provide us with a hotel so we could at least relax and sleep. But Malindo says we don’t have any nearby hotels,” he said. He also said a security guard kept “spying” on his laptop and that he has been assigned a flight for Thursday 12:10am.
“I am down to just book Colombo to Karachi flight direct but I am not allowed to even do that. It’s a $900 fare. I will pay it, I don’t mind, if these guys will let me take that flight at least. They [have been] holding our passports for the last five hours! They won’t even give back our passports or luggage back,” said Manzoor.
He and the other family have contacted the Pakistani High Commission in Colombo for assistance and have been told they were detained because the Sri Lankans believe they are not tourists and are there to seek asylum. The Pakistan High Commission aims to get this matter resolved as soon as possible and has asked for information from the higher authorities on the mistreatment of Pakistan nationals. Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal was not available for comment.