12 Jul 2011

NZ emerging as 'destination of choice' for Tamils

7:41 pm on 12 July 2011

A senior journalist in Sri Lanka says New Zealand is emerging as a destination of choice for Tamils wanting to flee the country.

The AFP bureau chief in Sri Lanka says most were heading for Australia, but that has changed since the Australian government stepped up its vigilance.

Amal Jayasinghe's comments follow reports that Indonesia has detained a boatload of nearly 80 Sri Lankans heading for New Zealand.

Mr Jayasinghe told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme Tamil asylum seekers are looking to the east after being rejected by the west, including Britain.

"Some of these people may have very legitimate claims of persecution at home while some of them would also be economic refugees, so it's very difficult to say unless and until you look at the individual case.

"In general terms, what you see is that some of the people, particularly members of the Tamil community, fail to secure asylum in the west."

Mr Jayasinghe says members of the Tamil community would argue they still fear persecution, but on the whole the United Nations refugee agency does not think their case is as strong as it was two or three years ago.