Friday, November 14, 2014

Sri Lanka Is A Tale Of Two Parts: Safe For Travellers, A Danger For Some Cultural Groups

Australia's current government travel advise for Sri Lanka remains at Exercise A High Degree Of Caution...because whilst the 30-something year long civil war is meant to be officially over for a few years now, there is still danger in parts of the country, for some.

The steady stream of Tamil, and some Sinhalese, asylum seekers continues. There are refugee camps in India where Tamils who have fled Sri Lanka have lived and waited for a better life for years and years. Many Tamils, and some Sinhalese, from different religious groups but mainly Christians, have made the decision to escape and try and seek asylum in Australia.

This understanding of danger depends on which side of politics you come from, and what publications you believe. Although I know what I have heard in my line of work, and the stories people tell. The trauma, the fear, the desperation and need to leave.

I have traveled to Sri Lanka twice, to watch cricket, and never a thought of being unsafe entered my mind. I did stick to the southern two thirds of the country, though. As a Westerner with money, it was easy. Without participating in a religious practice, I did not expose myself to any prejudice or danger.

Tamils have been in danger in Sri Lanka since the end of English rule in the country, back in 1948. The brutal civil war was sparked by the militant Tamil Tigers, who fought for an independent state, with an end only being reached in 2009. But the current dangers to parts of the Sri Lankan population are not about the Tigers and the civil war.

Buddhist extremist groups have been targeting Christians in violent attacks, making the practice of their faith a target. Heavy military control of the Tamil regions in the north continue, with reported abuses such as harassment, torture, sexual violence, indefinite imprisonment. They can be denied access to education, and healthcare. Land has been denied to them.

Australia says the country is safe, and has returned failed asylum seekers. It clearly isn't. The volume of people fleeing say otherwise. The lengths some have gone to to avoid being returned, also scream for help. When will they be heard?

*This post is part of a series joining my travels with the lessons and stories I have come across in my work. Much of my travel has helped me understand different issues faced by my client group, and then many of my client's stories and experiences now shape my understanding of the world as I move through it. I wanted to share some of these points, to help others start to get this insight. These points are by no means a comprehensive thesis about the issues for each cultural group discussed - merely a starting point of thought and hopefully an antecedent to further reading and research, to gain an understanding for readers.

These photos were taken on my last trip to Sri Lanka, albeit down south in Galle.


  1. Great post Tash and with your work you have such an interesting perspective to explain all this stuff - more please!

    1. Thanks heaps, Amanda!
      Sadly, there are plenty of stories about the plight of cultural groups around the world that need highlighting...


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