Singapore deports Australian activist

  Age, Melbourne 
December 19, 2012

AN 81-year-old Australian human rights activist has accused Singapore authorities of holding him in a cell without food, drink and toilet facilities for nearly five hours before deporting him.

Dr Brian Senewiratne, a long-time critic of Colombo over its treatment of Tamils, told AFP on Tuesday, Dec 18, he flew to Singapore on December 14 on the way to Malaysia to give talks on the plight of refugees from Sri Lanka, his country of birth.

Senewiratne said when he reached immigration, he was led to a "10-foot by 10-foot" room where he waited for four and a half hours without basic facilities before being placed on a return flight to Brisbane.

"They (immigration officers) didn't let me use my mobile phone. Then I said let me at least get the number of the people who are waiting for me in Singapore. They said 'no, you can't switch on your computer'," Senewiratne said.

"So I had no computer, no passport and no mobile phone," the doctor added.

Senewiratne said an officer had told him before he was led under police escort to the plane, "You came from Brisbane and to Brisbane you will go, you are being deported under armed guard."

A document issued to Senewiratne by Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and seen by AFP stated that he was "refused entry into Singapore for ... being ineligible for issue of a pass under current immigration policies".

Senewiratne said he had entered Singapore at least 15 times without incident, with the last visit occurring five years ago.

ICA did not immediately respond to AFP queries on details of Senewiratne's deportation.

Senewiratne said he was contemplating legal action against Singapore authorities regarding his treatment and deportation, and would write to Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr to complain.

Senewiratne said he had been scheduled to speak about the plight of Sri Lankan refugees who flee from their homeland in flimsy boats only to wash up in Australia and Malaysia, where they are branded as illegal immigrants.

Australia announced on Monday plans to boost intelligence sharing with Sri Lanka to try to halt a wave of asylum seekers that has seen thousands arrive illegally on its shores this year.

More than 16,770 boatpeople have arrived in Australia in 2012, with Sri Lankans making up the biggest group, accounting for more than 6360.