British woman trapped in Sri Lanka for 13 months is 'out of hope'

British woman trapped in Sri Lanka for 13 months is 'out of hope'

September 29, 2023

British woman trapped in Sri Lanka for 13 months says she is ‘out of hope’ as she stays on the run from authorities who seized her passport after she filmed civil protests

  • EXCLUSIVE: Kayleigh Fraser has been in hiding after supporting a civil uprising 

A Brit trapped abroad in Sri Lanka after sharing videos of a civil uprising says she is ‘out of hope’ following 13 months hiding from the country’s oppressive government.

Kayleigh Fraser, 35, had her home in the south Asian island nation raided in August last year by immigration officials who claimed that she was visiting the country on an invalid visa and seized her passport.

But St Andrews woman Ms Fraser, who was visiting the country to study botanical medicine, said this was only brought to her attention after she began sharing videos of the ‘Aragalaya’ (‘Struggle’ in Sinhalese) protests on her Instagram.

Sri Lanka’s supreme court upheld a deportation order issued by officials – but Ms Fraser says she is afraid to surrender to them amid fears that she will be unlawfully detained under the country’s notorious anti-terror laws, which allow individuals to be detained for causing ‘religious, racial, or communal disharmony’.

Later today, North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain will meet with Foreign Office officials in the hope of eking out written reassurances from the Sri Lankan government that Ms Fraser will be guaranteed safe passage out of the country.

Kayleigh Fraser has been in hiding in Sri Lanka for more than a year after immigration officials seized her passport following a civil uprising

Ms Fraser claims that she has been persecuted for sharing footage of the Sri Lankan protests last year that led to the resignation of the country’s president

Ms Fraser supported protesters living in a ‘protest village’ in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo last year (pictured above)

READ MORE: Scottish activist has her passport seized in Sri Lanka after wading into the political fall out from the country’s economic crisis on social media

Until such guarantees are given, Ms Fraser says she cannot come out of hiding.

Speaking to MailOnline, Ms Fraser said: ‘I’m just existing, surviving out here, waiting for something to change. I have no options at all and I’m practically out of hope.

‘Just ensuring I have somewhere to sleep and something to eat are the priority. 

‘Internet is a luxury that I’m incredibly thankful to have had decent access to this past month or so.

‘I don’t recognise this as life – it’s existence. It feels like the entire world has abandoned me at the mercy of these madmen in power here.’

Sri Lankans rose up against their government in early 2022, amid spiralling inflation that saw food prices rise by more than 80 per cent. The country still contends with the aftermath of its 25-year civil war, which ended in 2009.

Citizens demanded the resignation of president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country in mid-July last year. But his replacement, incumbent prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, then ordered a crackdown on civil resistance.

Protesters and media were attacked by police at a protest village in the capital city of Colombo days after Mr Wickremesinghe took power, and others have been arrested without charge under the country’s oppressive Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Amnesty International, along with other human rights groups, have accused the Sri Lankan government of engaging in ‘the harassment and intimidation by state agencies of conflict-affected people, human rights defenders and activists’.

Police in Sri Lanka used tear gas and other weapons in an attempt to suppress civil protest during last year’s uprising

Sri Lanka’s civil uprising in early 2022 saw the country’s president flee – only to be replaced by Ranil Wickremesinghe, who instigated a crackdown on protest

Kayleigh Fraser shared videos and photos of the ‘aragalaya’ (‘struggle’) on her Instagram

Human rights groups and observers from the UN say the country, under Ranil Wickremesinghe (above), is not improving its record on its treatment of citizens

And two weeks later, Ms Fraser’s home in Malabe, a suburb of Colombo, was raided by immigration officials, plunging her into a year of hiding underground, with a trusted network of friends and supporters keeping her safe.

Attempts to discuss the case with the British High Commission in the capital have, she claims, been fraught with issues.

Officials are understood to have told her that they have no further options because she refuses to surrender to the country’s immigration authorities.

But she fears being arbitrarily detained or being charged with a litany of false crimes in order to make an example of her for speaking up.

Nihal Thalduwa, a spokesperson for the Sri Lankan police, told national newspaper The Morning last year that Ms Fraser had been sharing ‘negative content’ on her Instagram.

He said: ‘It is not right for a foreign national to be in our country and share such mass negative content. She is not a journalist either, to be covering the protests.’

Ms Fraser added: ‘I need some kind of assured safe passage via the UK government and their physical presence and assistance to get safely on a plane and off this island.

‘I spoke up for people who were being horrendously abused by those who were entrusted to look after them. So why do I sit here rotting?’

For over a year, human rights lawyer Nagananda Kodituwakku has been fighting Ms Fraser’s case in the courts, seeking the overturning of the deportation order and the return of her passport.

This week, he discussed the case with North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain ahead of her meeting with Foreign Office officials.

Mr Kodituwakku told MailOnline: ‘Sri Lanka is a pseudo-democracy where nobody respects the sovereignty of the people and the rule of law.

‘Kayleigh is an upright British national who was very much concerned with the blatant right violations. She used her social media pages to highlight these cases and brought them to the attention of the international community. 

‘And she was branded as a foreigner who brought the government of Sri Lanka into disrepute and was issued with an unjustified and unlawful deportation order denying her any right to defend herself.’

Kayleigh Fraser with her lawyer, Nagananda Kodituwakku, who has been fighting her case in Sri Lanka’s courts for over a year

North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain (pictured) is meeting with Foreign Official officials today to discuss Ms Fraser’s case – and to seek assurances over her safety

Lib Dem MP Ms Chamberlain said: ‘It is clear that Kayleigh wants to come home and I’m working with the Foreign Office to make that happen. 

”What I’m seeking is a reassurance from Sri Lankan authorities that she will be able to leave forthwith.

‘The British High Commission has been supporting her for some time but her anxieties, her experiences with Sri Lankan authorities mean her trust is very low.

‘The Foreign Office has said they have had assurances verbally that she will be safe but we want to get them in writing. It’s a distressing time so just getting that clarity will help her get what she wants to happen.’

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said: ‘We are providing assistance to a British woman in Sri Lanka and are in contact with the local authorities.’

MailOnline has contacted Sri Lanka’s Department of Immigration and Emigration for comment.

Sri Lanka says it is making progress on human rights, but observers including the United Nations Human Rights Office say the country’s treatment of its citizens is far from where it needs to be.

Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said earlier this month: ‘More than a year ago mass protests demanded better governance and an inclusive vision for Sri Lanka – in short, a renewal of the social contract. 

‘But the potential for a historic transformation that would address long-standing challenges is far from being realised.’

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