Several migrant groups in Sri Lanka have been seeking protection in the police stations of Negombo after a series of attacks. Afghan and Pakistani asylum seekers have complained about threats to their lives from the local community after the series of bomb attacks.
See Reuters News story (here)
We spoke to one of the frightened asylum seekers, he described events of the past few days and explained how dangerous the situation is, he said:
“For the last 4 days large groups of local Sri Lankans have been threatening to kill us if we stay in our homes.
“Some homes have been attacked in Sea Street, and Peter Mendes Road and in the area of Daluputhoa.
“My family and I were attacked in Dalupothoa when my home was broken into and rioters came in and vandalised the property I rented while we were forced to watch – they began to beat us.
“We were told the violence enacted upon us was in retaliation for the series of recent bomb attacks.”
“I begged them to stop beating us and explained that we were innocent and that there were children in my home. The men said our Christian children have been killed why should we save yours.
“The men beating us until other Sri Lankan local residents came to my rescue and explained I was a Christian – even then the gang wanted me out of the area as they said I was a Pakistani first and then Christian.
“I had called 119 for the police when the men first started beating on our door – but no police came.
“My Landlord then called me and told me to return his house key as I was being evicted because he had received threats that my building will be burnt down if I stay home.
“We have taken shelter in local police stations after being advised by local Christian leaders, but now we are too fearful to leave their forecourts.
“We believe the threats are real and that we will be killed if we dare to exit outside the station – these people mean us real harm.”
A video of the Pak-Christian asylum seekers outside the Negombo Police Station can be seen here:
By the time our informant arrived at the police station other Pakistani Christians, Ahmadis and Afghans asylum seekers had already gathered there. Though Police could not provide anywhere inside the station the use of the station forecourt as a temporary residence was permitted to the beleaguered and newly homeless people, who had all been evicted by their landlords. Now over 60 Pak-Christians are present at Negombo Police Station from a total of around 100.
There is no means for food and no-one has any form of income after being removed from their work de to the growing animosity towards foreigners in Sri Lanka.
Though relatively inactive in helping these families the police have been providing food packages to the newly homeless migrant community.
Attempts were made to move the asylum community to another area by some of the local church groups last night. It was felt that the foyer of the police station would not be safe from a large scale attack which some groups were trying to foment. However, after moving many of the Pak-Christian community they found that a local band of Buddhist monks attempted to attack the asylum seekers in the temporary home provided, until local police intervened. A video of the brave police intervention can be seen here:
It is not known if Christians are involved in the attacks but Negombo has an extremely high percentage of Catholics and St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo- which once famously protected Pakistani Christians – suffered the worst of the several bomb attacks.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:
“Police and security forces must restore peace in their communities whilst undertaking the necessary sweeps for terrorists throughout Sri Lanka.
“It is a blight on their country that innocent victims are being persecuted, especially as many of those who are being targeted have already suffered a similar fate in their homeland.
“Landlords who have illegally evicted tenants and gangs who have attacked and threatened innocent migrants must be punished for their exhibited xenophobia.
“Allowing lawlessness and mob rule to destroy the security of the country only serves to further polarise an increasingly agitated people.”
“I understand the anger and bitterness felt by the people of Negombo who have suffered a shockingly evil attack.
“However, retaliation of this type not only targets the wrong individuals, but gives the terrorists what they want – weaker less robust communities in which they can sow their hate agenda.
“I appeal to the Christians and other communities of Negombo to stand strong in the face of such provocation and to extend love instead of hate.
“Together communities are stronger and more fruitful.
“The bible tells us to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate you – our infallible God knows what is best for us.”
We have begun an appeal to assist with food and other essentials for the families residing in front of Negombo Police station. If you would like to donate please (click here)