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600 foreigners including 200 Islamic clerics expelled from Sri Lanka, visa restrictions on religious preachers tightened

Sri Lanka has currently imposed a state of emergency giving the security officials a wide range of powers in order to arrest and detain suspects for long periods.

On Sunday, a minister in Sri Lanka said that ever since the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, the country has expelled over 600 foreign nationals from the island nation, which includes about 200 Islamic clerics. The Sri Lankan Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena said that the clerics have been fined and expelled from the country for overstaying their visa. The clerics have however entered the country through legal means

“Considering the current situation in the country, we have reviewed the visa system and took a decision to tighten visa restrictions for religious teachers,” said Abeywardena, adding “Out of those who were sent out, about 200 were Islamic preachers.”

The minister did not reveal the nationalities of those who were expelled, however, the police have revealed that the expelled foreigners have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives and India.

“There are religious institutions which have been getting down foreign preachers for decades,” Abeywardena said. “We have no issues with them, but there are some which mushroomed recently. We will pay more attention to them.”

Following the Easter Sunday attacks, the government is overhauling the country’s visa policy to prevent foreign clerics from radicalising the locals in order to prevent a repeat of the April 21 suicide bombings.

Sri Lanka has currently imposed a state of emergency giving the security officials a wide range of powers in order to arrest and detain suspects for long periods. Given the extra powers, authorities have conducted house-to-house searches, and found explosives and radical Islamic propaganda in such searches.

The Easter Sunday bombings have killed 257 people and injured nearly 500. The government has also confirmed a local radical organisation known as the National Thowheed Jama’ath (NTJ) is responsible for the attacks. The group is also closely linked with the ISIS.

Earlier it had been confirmed by authorities that the Easter Sunday suicide bombers had visited India, possibly for training or establishing contact with other radical organisations. The government had also banned radical Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s Peace TV for spreading Islamic propaganda. A ban on Burqas and other face coverings have also been imposed by a presidential decree.

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