The father of a three-year-old Tamil girl on board a missing boat of asylum seekers says he waits by the phone for her call.
“I am waiting every day to hear from her, I live every day with that hope. I want to know what has happened to her, and I hope nobody is frightening my daughter.”
Speaking to Fairfax Media from Europe, the father of three-year-old Febrina said he had had no contact with his daughter or wife for 10 days.
He has publicly asked the Australian government to reveal where the asylum seekers are and where they will be taken.
It is understood the 153 asylum seekers, all Tamils, and including 37 children, were intercepted in the Indian Ocean more than a week ago and taken on board the customs vessel the Oceanic Protector.
There is speculation those taken from the boat will be handed over to the custody of the Sri Lankan navy, as a previous boatload of 41 asylum seekers was on Sunday.
However, a last-minute temporary injunction issued by the High Court late Monday may prevent the second boatload from being sent to Sri Lanka.
Febrina’s father, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he and his wife had separately fled the north of Sri Lanka after being harassed and persecuted by security forces.
“I was suspected of supporting the Tamil Tigers, so I was arrested and tortured by police. I fled the island. My wife also had problems from the police and military. Neither of us could live there.”
Three-year-old Febrina has never been to Sri Lanka. She was born in a refugee camp in southern India.
“She has never seen the island. She has been in a refugee camp her whole life. But because her parents are refugees from Sri Lanka, the Indian government says she is a Sri Lankan citizen.”
Febrina’s father said if those on board the boat were returned, they would face retribution.
“I am certain they will face torture, they might even get killed. The Sri Lankan government does not forget the past. They will come for them.”
A Sri Lankan police spokesman confirmed all of the 41 asylum seekers returned on Sunday would face the Galle Magistrates court, charged with leaving the country illegally.
“They will be charged under the Immigrants and Emigrants Act. The sentence for those who are proved to have left illegally is two years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine,” Ajith Rohana said.
Febrina’s father disagreed with Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s assessment that Sri Lanka was a country “at peace”.
“While it may seem the country is peaceful, many Tamil people live in fear. Atrocities are taking place and we cannot live in Sri Lanka.”