Tamil journalist will not be forced back to Sri Lanka

A short note to follow up on an alert we posted Wednesday on the threatened deportation of Lohini Rathimohan  (also spelled Lokini), a former television journalist and one of 19 Tamil refugees facing deportation from the United Arab Emirates. Earlier reports said the refugees, who reached Dubai illegally, could be deported this week.

In a post on Twitter today, Babar Baloch, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said “#UAE pledges safe haven for 19 #Tamil #refugees http://bit.ly/110WDb4 .” The Times of India quoted Baloch as saying that the “UNHCR is looking for a solution to resettle the 19 refugees in other countries. We have full cooperation from the UAE government and there is no threat of the refugees being sent back to Sri Lanka.”

The decision came after many media support and human rights organizations publicized the case and the possibility that Rathimohan, as a journalist associated with the Tamil secessionist movement, could have faced heavy-handed retribution in Sri Lanka. As we said Wednesday:

CPJ research shows that ethnic Tamil media in Sri Lanka face continued risks. CPJ last week documented an attack on the offices of Uthayan, a Tamil-language newspaper based in the island nation’s Northern Province, and disruptions last month by the country’s national broadcaster to BBC’s Tamil service, which led the British broadcaster to suspend all radio service in Sri Lanka.

In 2009, Rathimohan’s colleague Shoba was shown shot and killed in amateur video filmed by Sri Lankan soldiers and obtained by the U.K.’s Channel 4.