Sri Lanka could lose special trading rights with the bloc because of a failure to improve its human rights record, the European Union has warned.
EU has released a report which is backed by a year long study conducted by EU revealing “significant shortcomings” in Sri Lankan human rights efforts. The European Commission will now consider asking 27 member nations if the special trade privileges granted to the nation should be revoked. EU is the largest export market for Sri Lanka and if a decision by EU decides to revoke the status can have serious fallouts for the island nation which has to pay less for exporting clothes and fish products to the EU – two of its main staple industries. The EU is Sri Lanka’s largest export market, with textiles alone earning the country $3.5bn during the year 2008.
Sri Lanka on the other hand has refused to co-operate with the EU inquiry, stating that trade incentives are about economics and insisting that the issue has been “hijacked” by politics. The EU may make the decision to suspend the status by end of November which would take effect from next summer.
Human rights groups have been demanding Sri Lankan govt. to free the Tamils living in camps before the monsoons as it may lead to serious health issues for the refugees. The report also says that evidence of torture, police violence and breaches of child labor laws were also found. The report also sets expectations around how Sri Lanka needs to take “vigorous, rapid and verifiable” action to tackle discrepancies over its current human rights record.
Meanwhile many Tamils are trying to flee the country and seek refuge in other nations. Last week, more than 250 Sri Lankans were caught in Indonesian waters as an attempt to slip into Australia.
As the wooden boat was stopped by the navy, military personnel saw a sign reading: “We are Sri Lankan civilians. Plz save our life.“
The boat contained 195 men, 31 women and 27 children.
Each passenger on board had paid a sum of USD 15,000 to travel to Australia in a leaky, wooden boat but the engine of the boat had some snag and was intercepted by Indonesian authorities.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd verified on Tuesday that he did telephone Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to discuss the situation. The Tamils on the boat say they are facing ethnic persecution, “There are people that were actually tortured, there are people who had legs cut off, limbs cut off, people that were actually burned.”
Australia is not the only nation to receive illegal migrants fleeing Sri Lanka. A few days ago a boat carrying 76 men, suspected of being Sri Lankan Tamils was picked up in the Pacific just off Canada’s west coast.
Indian government has pledged a sum of USD 200million by now towards settling the Tamil population ravaged by war but such incidents and news may jeopardize the efforts.