Sri Lanka

Not Available

Immigration detainees

2019

1

Detained children

2017

299

New asylum applications

2019

1,041

Refugees

2019

40,018

International migrants

2019

Overview

Types of facilities used for migration-related detention
Administrative Ad Hoc Criminal Unknown

03 October 2020

A Health Worker Taking a Blood Sample to Test for COVID-19 Antibodies in Colombo, (M. Srinivasan,
A Health Worker Taking a Blood Sample to Test for COVID-19 Antibodies in Colombo, (M. Srinivasan, "Coronavirus: Sri Lanka Sees Surge in Infections," The Hindu, 10 July 2020, https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/coronavirus-sri-lanka-sees-surge-in-infections/article32046456.ece)

As of 28 September, Sri Lanka, with a population of 21.5 million, had detected only 3,360 cases of COVID-19. Although the country has been lauded for its containment of the virus, members of Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority have allegedly become stigmatised as carriers of the virus. There is also little information available concerning the impact of the virus on displaced populations, including migrants and refugees.

Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention. With no national asylum framework, asylum seekers and refugees are treated as irregular immigrants and may be subject to arrest, detention, and deportation under the Immigrants and Emigrants Act. In 2005, UNHCR signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Sri Lankan government allowing UNHCR to pursue its protection mandate for asylum seekers, refugees, and internally-displaced people. In 2019, UNHCR reported that there were 37,947 persons of concern in the country.

Sri Lankan immigration detention facilities are known to subject detainees to poor living conditions, raising concerns for the welfare of detainees during the pandemic. In 2017, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention visited Mirihana detention facility, and noted extreme overcrowding, poor shower and bathroom facilities, and lack of recreational activities. The group urged Sri Lankan authorities to “Cease holding migrants in Mirihana immigration detention facility immediately as it is entirely inappropriate for such purposes.” However, as of at least February 2020 the facility remained open.

Civil society organisations have criticised Sri Lanka’s prison conditions for being overcrowded, sometimes housing 5,000 inmates in a facility made for 800 people. On 7 July, an inmate at Sri Lanka’s largest prison, Welikada Remand Prison, tested positive for COVID-19. Subsequently, all inmates and staff members at the prison were tested for the virus, and all wards were cleansed and sanitised. The infected inmate had been transferred into the Prison from a drug rehabilitation centre in Kandakadu in Polonnaruwa district, located in Sri Lanka North Central Province. Shortly afterwards, it was reported that a cluster of at least 340 cases of COVID-19 had emerged from the Kandakadu centre. On 8 July, the government banned personal prison visits to prevent the spread of COVID-19.


Last updated:

IMMIGRATION AND DETENTION-RELATED STATISTICS

Total number of immigration detainees by year
Not Available
2019
Total number of detained minors
1
2017
1
2016
4
2014
Criminal prison population
16,990
2017
22,414
2013
26,984
2010
24,255
2007
20,661
2004
17,216
2001
13,999
1998
11,447
1995
9,162
1992
Percentage of foreign prisoners
1.4
2016
1.1
2013
Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)
78
2017
105
2013
129
2010
120
2007
105
2004
91
2001
76
1998
63
1995
52
1992
Population
21,400,000
2020
20,715,000
2015
International migrants
40,018
2019
38,700
2015
International migrants as a percentage of the population
0.2
2016
Refugees
1,041
2019
800
2018
822
2017
597
2016
784
2015
848
2015
511
2014
Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants
0.03
2016
0.02
2014
Total number of new asylum applications
299
2019
345
2016
1,520
2014
Refugee recognition rate
75.7
2014
Stateless persons
0
2016
0
2015

SOCIO-ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD)
3,794
2014
Remittances to the country
7,033
2014
Unemployment Rate
2014
Net official development assistance (ODA) (in millions USD)
488.2
2014
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)
73 (High)
2015

DOMESTIC LAWS AND POLICIES

Legal tradition
Civil law
2017
Common law
2017
Customary law
2017

INTERNATIONAL LAW

Individual complaints procedure
Acceptance Year
ICCPR, First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 1997
1997
CEDAW, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 1999 2002
2002
CAT, declaration under article 22 of the Convention 1994
1994
Ratio of complaints procedures accepted
Observation Date
3/8
2017
Relevant recommendations issued by treaty bodies
Recommendation Year
Committee against Torture § 44. The State party should: […] (c) Ensure that persons in need of international protection are not detained or that detention is used only as a measure of last resort, after alternatives have been duly examined and exhausted, and for the shortest possible time, in detention centres that are suitable for their purpose and whose regime is different from that of penal institutions; (d) Consider ratifying the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol thereto. 2017
2017
Committee on Migrant Workers 33. The Committee recommends that the State party: (a) Ensure that administrative detention is used as a measure of last resort only and that non-custodial alternatives are promoted, in line with the Committee’s general comment No. 2 (2013) on the rights of migrant workers in an irregular situation and members of their families; (b) Expeditiously and completely cease the detention of children on the basis of their or their parents’ immigration status, and allow children to remain with family members and/or guardians in non-custodial, community-based contexts while their immigration status is being resolved, in accordance with their best interests and with their rights to liberty and family life; (c) Refrain from detaining migrants with specific needs, particularly women, children, the elderly and persons with physical or mental disabilities, and where detention of migrants in these categories does take place, ensure that there is a specific policy in place for their detention and safe, gender-responsive and adequate detention facilities, including access to sexual and reproductive health care; (d) Take the steps necessary to ensure that in administrative and judicial proceedings, including detention and expulsion proceedings, migrant workers and members of their families, particularly those in an irregular situation, are guaranteed due process on an equal basis with nationals of the State party before the courts and tribunals; 2016
2016
Committee on Migrant Workers § 33. The Committee recommends that the State party: (a) Ensure that administrative detention is used as a measure of last resort only and that non-custodial alternatives are promoted, in line with the Committee’s general comment No. 2 (2013) on the rights of migrant workers in an irregular situation and members of their families; (b) Expeditiously and completely cease the detention of children on the basis of their or their parents’ immigration status, and allow children to remain with family members and/or guardians in non-custodial, community-based contexts while their immigration status is being resolved, in accordance with their best interests and with their rights to liberty and family life; (c) Refrain from detaining migrants with specific needs, particularly women, children, the elderly and persons with physical or mental disabilities, and where detention of migrants in these categories does take place, ensure that there is a specific policy in place for their detention and safe, gender-responsive and adequate detention facilities, including access to sexual and reproductive health care; (d) Take the steps necessary to ensure that in administrative and judicial proceedings, including detention and expulsion proceedings, migrant workers and members of their families, particularly those in an irregular situation, are guaranteed due process on an equal basis with nationals of the State party before the courts and tribunals; § 35. The Committee recommends that the State party: […] (e) Ensure that diplomatic missions in States of employment have specific policies that address prevention of and response to arbitrary detention and sexual and gender-based violence, including having female officers to deal with cases of sexual abuse, a local 24/7 hotline free of charge, a roster of competent local lawyers able to help the State party’s migrant workers with legal issues, and that they conduct frequent visits to migrant detention centres; […], §59. The Committee recommends that the State party: […], (e) Take measures to properly identify victims of trafficking and to protect them from prosecution, detention or punishment for activities in which they were involved as a direct consequence of their situation as trafficked persons; 2016
2016
Bilateral/multilateral agreements linked to readmission
Year in Force
Observation Date
EU 2005
2005
2017
Visits by special procedures of the Human Rights Council
Year of Visit
Observation Date
Working Group on arbitrary detention 2017
2017
Relevant recommendations by UN Special Procedures
Recommendation Year
Observation Date
Working Group on arbitrary detention 91 (b) Enact legislation that would specify that any detention in the course of migration proceedings must be exceptional, ordered by a judicial authority only in cases when specifically prescribed by law and assessed as necessary and proportionate in individual cases; [...] (d) Ensure that alternatives to detention in the context of migration, which are accessible and realistic, are deployed; (e) Cease holding migrants in Mirihana immigration detention facility immediately as it is entirely inappropriate for such purposes. 2018
2018
Relevant recommendations of the UN Universal Periodic Review
Observation Date
No 2008
2017
No 2012
2017

INSTITUTIONAL INDICATORS

Do international and/or regional bodies (IRBs) visit immigration-related detention facilities?
Yes
2017
Do IRBs publicly report their findings from inspections?
Yes
2018