A British woman stuck abroad in Sri Lanka after sharing videos of a civil uprising says she is “hopeless” after 13 months in 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 she was visiting the country on an invalid visa and seized his passport.
But St Andrews resident Ms Fraser, who was visiting the country to study botanical medicine, said it only came to her attention after she began sharing videos of the “Aragalaya” protests ( “Struggle” in Sinhalese) on his Instagram.
Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court has upheld a deportation order issued by authorities – but Ms Fraser says she is afraid to go to them, fearing she will be illegally detained under the country’s notorious anti-terrorism laws, which allow to arrest individuals for causing “religious unrest”. , racial or community discord.”
Later today, North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain will meet Foreign Office officials in the hope of securing written assurances from the Sri Lankan government that Ms Fraser will be guaranteed safe passage out from the country.
Kayleigh Fraser has been hiding in Sri Lanka for more than a year after immigration officials confiscated her passport following a civil uprising.
Ms Fraser claims she was persecuted for sharing footage of last year’s Sri Lankan protests that led to the resignation of the country’s president.
Last year, Ms Fraser supported protesters living in a “protest village” in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo (pictured above).
Until such guarantees are given, Ms. Fraser says she will not be able to come out of hiding.
Speaking to MailOnline, Ms Fraser said: “I’m just existing, surviving here, waiting for something to change. I have no options and I’m pretty much hopeless.
“The priority is just to make sure I have somewhere to sleep and something to eat.
“The internet is a luxury that I am extremely grateful to have had decent access to over the last month.
“I don’t recognize that as life – it’s existence. I feel like the whole world has abandoned me to the mercy of these crazy people in power here.
Sri Lankans rose up against their government in early 2022, amid soaring inflation that saw food prices rise by more than 80 percent. The country is still grappling with the aftermath of 25 years of 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, outgoing 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 Colombo, days after Mr Wickremesinghe came to power, and others were arrested without charge under the country’s repressive law. prevention of terrorism in the country.
Amnesty International, along with other human rights groups, has accused the Sri Lankan government of engaging in “harassment and intimidation by state agencies of conflict-affected people, rights defenders humans and activists.
Police in Sri Lanka used tear gas and other weapons to try to suppress civilian protests 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 launched a crackdown on protests.
Kayleigh Fraser shared videos and photos of the “aragalaya” (“wrestling”) on her Instagram
Human rights groups and UN observers say the country, under Ranil Wickremesinghe (above), is not improving its record on the 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 in hiding, with a trusted network of friends and supporters for ensure his safety.
Attempts to discuss the matter with the British High Commission in the capital have, she says, been fraught with difficulties.
Authorities reportedly told her they had no other choice because she refused to go to the country’s immigration authorities.
But she fears being arbitrarily detained or charged with a litany of false crimes in order to make an example of her for speaking out.
Nihal Thalduwa, spokesperson for the Sri Lankan police, told the national newspaper The morning Last year, Ms Fraser shared “negative content” on her Instagram.
He said: “It is not right for a foreign national to be in our country and sharing such negative content en masse. She is also not a journalist to cover the protests.
Ms Fraser added: “I need some sort of assured safe passage through the UK Government and their physical presence and assistance to safely get on a plane and leave this island.
“I stood up for people who were being horribly mistreated by those who were given the responsibility to care for them. So why do I stay here to rot?
For more than a year, human rights lawyer Nagananda Kodituwakku has been defending Ms. Fraser’s case in court, seeking the annulment of the deportation order and the return of her passport.
This week he discussed the matter 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 no one respects the sovereignty of the people and the rule of law.
“Kayleigh is an upstanding British national who was very concerned about the gross rights violations. She used her social media pages to highlight these cases and brought them to the attention of the international community.
“And she was labeled a foreigner, which brought the Sri Lankan government into disrepute and made the subject of an unjustified and illegal deportation order, denying her any right to defend herself.”
Kayleigh Fraser with her lawyer, Nagananda Kodituwakku, who has been pursuing her case in Sri Lanka’s courts for over a year.
North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain (pictured) is meeting with foreign officials today to discuss Ms Fraser’s case – and to get assurances over her safety.
Lib Dem MP Ms Chamberlain said: “It is clear that Kayleigh wants to return home and I am working with the Foreign Office to make this happen.
“What I am looking for is an assurance from the Sri Lankan authorities that she will be able to leave immediately.
“The British High Commission has supported her for some time, but her anxieties and experiences with the Sri Lankan authorities mean that her trust is very low.
“The Foreign Office said they had received assurances verbally that she would be safe, but we want to get them in writing. It’s a distressing time, so just having that clarity will help her get what she wants.
A spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: “We are providing assistance to a British woman in Sri Lanka and are in contact with 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 Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights say the country’s treatment of its citizens falls far short of the mark. be what it should be.
Volker Türk, United Nations 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. 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 realized.”