Treatment of Eurasian landowners suspected of supporting, or being actively involved with, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) (1996 to May 2000) [LKA34415.E]

The Executive Director of the Asia Pacific Centre for Justice and Peace in Washington DC, who is also Coordinator of the Centre's U.S. NGO Forum on Sri Lanka, stated in a 26 May 2000 telephone interview that she believes "Eurasians" is a reference to a Sri Lankan ethnic group known as "Burghers" who she understands to be persons of mixed Dutch heritage. She said that Burghers typically have English as a mother tongue and are predominantly Christian. She said that they are not a privileged group in Sri Lanka, but neither are they generally poor. She said that while it was not likely, a Burgher could be a landowner. When asked what their treatment might be by government authorities if they were thought to be supporting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) she said she believed it would not be different than any other person thought to be supporting the LTTE. She said that the person could be questioned and could be treated quite badly, as reflected in the human rights reports on Sri Lanka. However, she stated her belief that it would be a "little unusual for Burghers to support the LTTE" because there would be "nothing in it for them." She added, though, that if the Burgher was living in an area controlled by the LTTE they could be forced to help out the LTTE, and if the authorities became aware of this then the Burgher could suffer mistreatment (ibid.).

A Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, who is also Director of the Southern Asian Institute at the university, is of Sri Lankan origin, and is a specialist and author on India and Sri Lanka, provided additional detail to the information provided by the above source (26 May 2000). He stated that Burghers are predominantly descendants from mixed marriages of Sri Lankans with either Dutch or Portuguese persons. As such the term "Eurasian" refers to a section of Burghers who "would rather call themselves Eurasian." He said these persons would most likely be descendants of mixed marriages of Sri Lankans with persons of British descent. However, he also stated that a person identifying their Burgher ethnicity outside of Sri Lanka could use the term "Eurasian" because it would be more easily understood by non-Sri Lankans.

The professor said that most Burghers live in Columbo, Kandy and the southern part of the country in regions outside of LTTE activity. However, he said there are a few poor Burghers known as "shoemakers" in the eastern part of the country. He said that most Burghers would be middle-class and often work in areas where they can serve as "intermediaries" between Europeans and Sri Lankans. He gave hotel manager as an example. He also stated that while it was possible for Burghers to be landowners, historically, as well as at the present time, it would be much more likely for them to be working as a manager of farm estates, rather than as the estates' owners.

When asked if Burghers would be treated differently by government authorities if they were thought to be supporting the LTTE, the professor said they would not be treated any worse than others. He said that a Burgher could be treated "possibly better." He explained that "Burghers generally do not do this" (support the LTTE) and, as such, if they were suspected of doing so they could be treated "like someone gone astray." He said that Sinhalese aggression is directed mainly against the Tamils and that that out of all the different ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, the Burghers are "the least touched by inter-ethnic strife" (ibid.).

In other information, a 13 January 1998 report from TamilNet claims that a "'motorbike group' of the Sri Lankan army" searched a village on the outskirts of Batticaloa whose "residents are predominantly Burghers, descendants of Portugese settlers." The report claimed that two youths were arrested and taken to Kallady army camp (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Asia Pacific Centre for Justice and Peace, Washington. 26 May 2000. Telephone interview with Executive Director.

Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University, New York. 26 May 2000. Telephone interview.

TamilNet. 13 January 1998. "'Motorbike' and Razeek Groups Search Kallady." [Accessed 26 May 2000]

Additional Sources Consulted

Danish Immigration Service and Danish Refugee Council. July 1999. Report on Fact-Finding Mission to Sri Lanka, 14 November to 5 December 1998.

IRB databases



UK Home Office. Country Assessment: Sri Lanka. April 2000.

World News Connection (WNC)

Unsuccessful attempts to contact four non-documentary sources

Internet sites including:

British Refugee Council, The Sri Lanka Project

South Asia Analysis Group


U.S. Committee for Refugees

Search engines including: