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Togo authorities holding 150 Sri Lanka refugees

LOME, Togo (AP) – An official in Togo says authorities are holding more than 150 Sri Lankan refugees who entered the West African nation en route to Canada.

Lt. Col. Yark Damehane said Thursday most of the group arrived in Togo in 2011 and overstayed their one-week tourist visas. He says he suspects the group was abandoned by human traffickers who promised to take them to Canada. He says many of the Sri Lankans are ethnic Tamils who say they were fleeing fighting and detentions.

He says the refugees say they traveled by ship to India, then to Ethiopia before flying to Togo.

Foreign governments and human rights groups have heavily criticized Sri Lanka’s human rights record, especially during the final stages of the civil war that ended with the defeat of the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009.

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