Colombo, April 26: Life has again turned bitter for refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran in the wake of the Easter Sunday bloodbath in Sri Lanka.
Ever since the suicide bombings killed over 250 people, most of the 800 refugees from the three Muslim countries living in Negombo, one of the three cities targeted on April 21, have been forced to vacate their homes and take shelter with the police.
The refugees accept that Sri Lankans must indeed be angry that innocent people praying in churches — besides others — were targeted by Islamic radicals but ask what their crime was, the Daily Mirror reported.
“We understand how sad and angry they must be feeling for the loss of their relatives. But we also hate terrorism. We love peace and freedom, which is why we came to peace-loving Sri Lanka,” the daily quoted Hafza, a Pakistani national, as saying.
Hafza, a Christian from predominantly Muslim Pakistan, moved to Sri Lanka to start a new life after suffering persecution there.
After the bombing of Negombo’s St. Sebastian’s Church, some devastated Sri Lankan Christian families started attacking the asylum seekers and forced them to leave the area.
“I was cooking when a group of people arrived and shouted at us to leave. Then, the house owner said if we don’t leave, he would also be attacked by them. We just had to leave with our kids,” Hafza recalled.
All the refugees had been living in Negombo, north of Colombo, with the assistance of UNHCR in rented houses for years, without facing any problems.
Once the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Sri Lanka carnage, everything changed.
The Mirror said that amng the asylum seekers were those from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, who face persecution in Pakistan.
After they vacated the houses, they were sent in a group to a mosque for safety. Another group of people was provided with security inside a police station, the daily said.
“When we visited them, infants were sleeping on a thin bed sheet on the floor while adults were sitting on some plastic chairs and dozing off,” the report said.
Raja Kamran, a Pakistani who came to Sri Lanka in January 2018, said he had thought he would have had a great future ahead. “But now all our hopes are shattered.”
“House owners have already closed the doors on us. There is no guarantee for life outside,” he added. And the UNHCR, he says, does not seem to care.