The man was held for about 16 hours for questioning by a local security agent after arriving in Colombo, only to emerge and conduct a media conference alleging he was handcuffed and beaten by Australian authorities.
Immigration authorities in Australia claim a last-minute United Nations plea to stop his deportation on Wednesday and to look further into claims he faces torture came too late. He is the first Tamil asylum seeker to be forced out of Australia since 2008 when the latest spate of arrivals began – with up to 150 others also facing involuntary deportation having almost exhausted all refugee appeals.
The man – Dayan Anthony, whom The Saturday Age chose not to identify before now at his family’s request – was seated before cameras and microphones at an event organised by Sri Lanka’s government information department. He told local reporters he had lied about his asylum claims and that a people smuggler had given him a forged visa, telling him to pretend he had been a separatist Tamil Tiger fighter during Sri Lanka’s vicious civil war. He also withdrew claims he was suffering mental illness or back problems as a consequence of past torture.
But refugee advocates have cast doubt on the authenticity of his statement and the Immigration Department denies he was mistreated.
Mr Anthony had arrived in Melbourne in 2010 by plane seeking asylum and lived with his sister and brother-in-law in the suburb of Dandenong. But last week he was told the Immigration Department had deemed him ”removable” after being refused a refugee visa.