May 15, Colombo: The Norwegian Embassy in Colombo, which has come under the scanner of Sri Lankan government following a report in a Norwegian newspaper that it assisted Tamil Tiger rebels to seek refuge in Norway, denied that it has been secretly helping the LTTE members to flee the country.
The Norwegian Embassy issuing a statement today said the local media have mistranslated the Norwegian newspaper article and represented the refugees as members of the annihilated terror outfit LTTE.
The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten in a May 12, 2011 article titled “Norway to help refugees from Sri Lanka” reported that the Norwegian authorities secretly have purchased tickets and obtained political asylum to persons who are deemed to be at risk in Sri Lanka.
The report clarified that a large number of people who live in hiding because of the roles they had during the civil war had been recently helped by giving them tickets, and political asylum in Norway.
The statement said the Embassy has noted that several news media in Sri Lanka carried the Aftenposten story and the translation and representation of the article in local media contain some inaccuracies, such as referring to the refugees as members of the LTTE.
“It is not correct that the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo has secretly been helping 12 LTTE cadres out of the country, as reported by Sri Lankan media,” the Embassy said.
The Norwegian Embassy said it is not at liberty to discuss individual cases but clarified its policy regarding asylum for refugees.
The applications for asylum in Norway are subject to strict rules and the cases are carefully examined to see if they qualify under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the statement said.
“What is correct is that the Norwegian Embassy has assisted a limited number of people by processing their applications for asylum or other grounds for residency in Norway. This was done in accordance with international and Norwegian law, as well as with specific regulations from the Norwegian Ministry of Justice for such involvement of embassies on an exceptional basis,” the Embassy emphasized.
Norwegian authorities in Colombo vehemently denied that the Embassy helped any LTTE cadres personally to migrate to Norway.
The Aftenposten report said in some cases, the employees at the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo personally have brought people to the airport and helped them out of the country – right under the nose of the Sri Lankan authorities and some others came out of the country on their own before they got the tickets and visas to Norway on short notice.
“For this group of people, the embassy has not purchased tickets, nor has diplomatic staff escorted them to the airport. To the best of our knowledge, the embassy did not assist any LTTE-cadres,” the Embassy stressed.
According to the Aftenposten, so far around 12 people have come to Norway with the help from the Norwegian authorities. About twice as many are standing in line to get similar help, it informed.
The Sri Lankan government meanwhile has asked its mission in Oslo to verify the Aftenposten report. Also the External Affairs Ministry has called the Norwegian Ambassador in Colombo Ms. Hilde Haraldstad to the Ministry.
Norway was a leading player in securing the abrogated ceasefire agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE in 2002 when Ranil Wickremasinghe was Prime Minister under Chandrika Kumaratunga’s presidency.