UNHCR officials in Kazakhstan told IRIN they had nearly completed screening the 24 Sri Lankan illegal migrants stranded in the northern city of Pavlodar.
UNHCR head of office Abdul Karim Ghoul said on Thursday: “As for the 10 people we have finished screening on Wednesday, none of them are refugees, but rather illegal migrants and victims of a smuggling ring in Sri Lanka.” According to Ghoul, the group had fallen victim to swindlers who had promised to take them to Germany, but fooled them by taking them to Russia and directing them towards Kazakhstan on foot instead.
One member of the group, a 20-year-old man, died from severe exposure after walking for four days and officials are currently trying to resolve the issue of what to do with his corpse.
UNHCR provided a two-man team to assist government migration officials in Pavlodar to determine the men’s refugee status, if any, and hope to complete this process on Thursday.
As for the fate of the men who are currently residing in government shelter, “Once these people’s status is concluded, we will be cooperating with IOM (International Organisation for Migration) officials here who may be able to assist some or possibly all these individuals return to Sri Lanka, depending on the availability of funds,” Ghoul said.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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