The Sri Lankan government has cancelled the on-arrival visa facility for Pakistan, citing security reasons as well as an increase in the number of asylum seekers from the country.
The official spokesperson for the foreign ministry confirmed to The Express Tribune on Friday that Colombo had withdrawn the on-arrival visa facilities for Pakistani citizens. The decision, she said, was communicated to Pakistan earlier this month.
Sri Lanka, with whom Pakistan enjoys close ties, was among the few countries which offer on-arrival visa facilities to Pakistani nationals.
A Foreign Office official, who asked to remain anonymous, said the major reason behind the Sri Lankan decision was security concerns and also the rising number of asylum seekers from Pakistan.
According to Sri Lankan media reports, Sri Lankan authorities recently picked up about 1,500 Pakistanis, who were registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). These people, who came to the island nation for asylum, would be deported because of their alleged involvement in anti-state activities in India and Pakistan, reports added.
The FO also confirmed that there are about 75 families under a 2005 agreement between UNHCR and the Sri Lankan government.
But it said the UNHCR and Sri Lankan government was not sharing any information about Pakistani asylum seekers with the Pakistani High Commission in Colombo because of the ‘principle of confidentiality and privacy’ clause applied by the UN commission for refugees.
Pakistani authorities will soon issue new travel guidelines for its nationals intending to travel to Sri Lanka.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2014.