A Sri Lankan community leader has told Sky News the vast majority of illegal immigrants arriving in Britain from the country are coming on fake passports.
Ambihai Seevaratnam, who works in human rights and is chairperson of Croydon temple in south London, says it has become much more difficult to get visas to come to the UK and that Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka are turning to agents to buy fake Sri Lankan passports and fake visas.
“I would probably say 80 to 85% of people arriving from Sri Lanka are coming on fake passports,” she said. “The only means is through fake passports. It’s big business and a risky business.”
Ms Seevaratnam believes that Brexit could provide job opportunities for the hundreds or even thousands who are coming on fake passports from Sri Lanka each year.
“There’s a whole workforce. They want to contribute and fear for their life and are grateful to Britain if they are here. So they want to contribute back.”
We spoke to a Sri Lankan woman in the temple who came to Britain on a fake passport last summer. She said she bought it through an agent because she feared for her life.
Arulseeli Sritharan claims she was too frightened to travel through the country’s capital on her own passport for fear of being arrested by officials looking for her fiance, who is an ex-rebel fighter.
Now she is claiming asylum and hopes eventually to be allowed to work in Britain.
She said: “I can’t go back because I will be killed. There are so many people back home like me. I will learn English and do charity work and do whatever I can for this country.”
Others who have lost their asylum applications hope Brexit could open up new opportunities for them.
Thevarajah and Kaly live in the UK and have both been denied asylum. Thevarajah came nearly 20 years ago but can only support his family through odd jobs getting cash in hand.
They live in a single room where they eat, sleep and spend all their time.
The couple have two children aged eight and six who were born in Britain. The children say they are too embarrassed to bring school friends home because their lives are so different.
All four members of the family sleep on a door covered with blankets on the floor.
They hope that after years of living in the shadows Brexit might offer a way into society for them, though there’s no evidence this is the case.
While Thevarajah and Kaly are able to access healthcare through their old asylum documents Kaly says she would like to go to college to study and hopes one day to work in child care.
Kaly said: “We cook and sleep and do everything in one room. The children talk about their friends and their lifestyle. My son doesn’t want to be ashamed.”