Gareth Thomas MP

From Harrow, For Harrow.

Sri Lanka

Gareth Thomas MP asked Theresa May MP, Home Secretary, what assessment had been made of the effect of returning failed asylum seekers to Sri Lanka on the ability of the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights to investigate violations of human rights in Sri Lanka. To read more, click here.

Gareth Thomas MP asks Parliamentary Question about Asylum Seekers and Sri Lanka

Gareth Thomas MP asked Theresa May MP, Home Secretary, what assessment had been made of the effect of returning failed asylum seekers to Sri Lanka on the ability of the...

Gareth Thomas, MP for Harrow West, has raised concerns about the proposals to move the BBC's Tamil Osai Service to New Delhil. For further information about the proposals, click here. 

MP raises concerns about the proposal to move the BBC Tamil Osai service to New Delhi

Gareth Thomas, MP for Harrow West, has raised concerns about the proposals to move the BBC's Tamil Osai Service to New Delhil. For further information about the proposals, click here. ...

UK Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander has raised concerns over the presence of the Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Commonwealth Games set to take place later this year in Glasgow. 

 

To read his full article in the Tamil Guardian, click here. 

Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary Questions Rajapaksa's role at Commonwealth Games

UK Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander has raised concerns over the presence of the Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Commonwealth Games set to take place later this year in...

UK Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander has raised concerns over the presence of the Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Commonwealth Games set to take place later this year in Glasgow. 

 

To read his full article in the Tamil Guardian, click here. 

Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary Questions Rajapaksa's role at Commonwealth Games

UK Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander has raised concerns over the presence of the Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Commonwealth Games set to take place later this year in...

In Parliament this week (10/04/14) Gareth Thomas MP called for a fairer representation of Tamil, East Asian and other ethnic minorities in the media.

He highlighted in particular the lack of ethnic minorities in the UK’s top soaps Eastenders and Coronation Street.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Gareth Thomas said:

I rarely see Tamil actors and actresses on our TV screens, which is disappointing given the size of the Tamil community. British East Asians are the third largest minority ethnic group in Britain today, but that is simply not reflected on our screens and stages. In nearly 30 years, Eastenders has had only one regular East Asian character, a young female DVD seller who lasted just six months. Given that the east end of London remains one of our most ethnically diverse areas, it is a little odd that Albert square has not had so much as even the proverbial cliché of a Chinese takeaway. Coronation Street also has a disappointing record. It waited until 2011 before it had an East Asian character, who lasted just four months. Hospital dramas such as “Casualty”, “Doctors” and “Holby City” are similarly disappointing. Given the number of East Asians working in our hospitals, including in senior roles, that is somewhat at odds with the reality of the very diverse work force in the NHS.”

To read the full transcript, please click here. To watch the video, please click here

Gareth Thomas MP calls for more Tamil actors on our TV screens

In Parliament this week (10/04/14) Gareth Thomas MP called for a fairer representation of Tamil, East Asian and other ethnic minorities in the media. He highlighted in particular the lack...

In March of this year, Gareth Thomas MP spoke at a Westminster debate about the situation of Tamil people in Sri Lanka. 

To read the full debate please click here.
 
For several years, Gareth and his colleagues have been calling for an international inquiry into alleged war crimes by both sides during the Sri Lankan civil war. A recent UN report found that as many as 40,000 people may have been killed.
 
Since the war ended in 2009 President Rajapaksa has repeatedly failed to deliver an independent, credible investigation, to address human rights abuses suffered by Sri Lankans or to implement the recommendations of his own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.
 
This month Labour called for the Prime Minister to use the opportunity of the UK re-taking a seat on the UN Human Rights Council to push for an independent, international inquiry to commence swiftly and address the ongoing human rights concerns in Sri Lanka, including the prevalence of sexual violence, the role of the military, the attacks on religious minorities and the intimidation of human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists.
 
The United Nations has now adopted a resolution which states that an inquiry is necessary. The resolution was presented by the United States on behalf of a number of countries, including Britain.

GarethThomas MP attended a Westminster debate about the situation of Tamil people in Sri Lanka

In March of this year, Gareth Thomas MP spoke at a Westminster debate about the situation of Tamil people in Sri Lanka.  To read the full debate please click here. For...

Kerry McCarthy MP, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Office Minister, writing in the Tamil Guardian today, calls for David Cameron to use the UK’s seat on the UN Human Rights Council this month to deliver on his pledge on Sri Lanka. 

 

Read the full article here. 

Kerry McCarthy MP, Labour's Shadow Foreign Office Minister writes on human rights in Sri Lanka

Kerry McCarthy MP, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Office Minister, writing in the Tamil Guardian today, calls for David Cameron to use the UK’s seat on the UN Human Rights Council this...

In today's Common's debate (11.09.13) Gareth Thomas MP drew attention to comments from a senior UN official who witnessed people being harrassed and intimated by security forces in Sri Lanka. Mr Thomas also drew attention to the fact that there have been more than 20 attack on Muslims on Muslim places of worship and businesses in the last 12 months. Further to this, Mr Thomas again raised topic of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting which Britain has committed to attending.

To read the full debate, please click here. To watch the video, please click here.

Sri Lanka Questions 2013

In today's Common's debate (11.09.13) Gareth Thomas MP drew attention to comments from a senior UN official who witnessed people being harrassed and intimated by security forces in Sri Lanka....

UN Leaked Report

14th November 2012

Gareth Thomas MP tweeted today about the leaked UN report on Sri Lanka. He wrote:

"Yet more evidence of the scale of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and the failure of the UN to protect civilians". To read the article in the Guardian, click here.

 
Human Rights Watch Report

18th September 2012

Gareth Thomas MP made an emergency ‘Point of Order’ in the House of Commons to raise his concerns about the Human Rights Watch report about Sri Lankan deportees allegedly being tortured on return from the UK:
 
Mr Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Human Rights Watch has recently published further evidence of failed Tamil asylum seekers who have been deported from the UK by the UK Border Agency being tortured on their return to Sri Lanka. The whole House wants to ensure that this country has strong immigration policies in place, and that they are adhered to, but it will surely also be concerned about those reports of torture. Have you heard of any possibility of a written statement from the Home Secretary, seeking to clarify her policy on the deportation of Tamil asylum seekers in the light of that new evidence?

Gareth also tabled 3 Parliamentary Questions as follows:

1.     To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what representations he has made or instructed to be made to prevent the use of torture on those Tamil asylum seekers deported from the UK; and if he will make a statement.

Alistair Burt responded:

"The UK takes its international responsibilities seriously and complies fully with all of its international obligations under the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the UN Convention Against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights. Returns are only enforced if it is safe to do so and the UK Border Agency is satisfied that the individual has no international protection needs. All decisions have the right of appeal, where they are evaluated by the independent Tribunal Service for Immigration and Asylum. The European Court of Human Rights has endorsed our policy that not all Tamil asylum seekers are in need of international protection. The UK regularly raises the issue of torture with the Sri Lanka Government. No formal instructions have been given to raise torture in the context of returns, as the UK deems Sri Lanka a safe country to return to. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued guidance for staff on reporting information or concerns about torture or mistreatment worldwide. This is to ensure that our institutional response to torture and mistreatment is as strong as it can be. Contact details for the British High Commission in Colombo are provided to charter flight returnees upon arrival and advised to call if they require any assistance."

 
2.     To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, how many Tamil asylum seekers deported by the UK Border Agency since May 2010 he estimates have been the victims of torture by Sri Lankan security services after their deportation from the UK; and if he will make a statement.


Alistair Burt responded:

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is aware of allegations of deported asylum seekers being tortured in Sri Lanka. We take all allegations of torture and mistreatment very seriously. However on the basis of allegations raised with the FCO we have not been able to identify any individuals as having been deported to Sri Lanka from the UK since 2010 and subsequently tortured. The FCO follows the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and contributes to the country information which the UK Border Agency (UKBA) uses when making asylum decisions. All asylum decisions are carefully considered on their merits and returns to Sri Lanka are only undertaken when UKBA are satisfied that the individual has no international protection needs."

3.     To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment she has made of the risk to failed Tamil asylum seekers of being tortured by Sri Lankan security services after deportation from the UK; and if she will make a statement.

Mr Harper responded:

"The UK Border Agency does not enforce the return of individuals unless it is safe to do so and when it and the courts are satisfied that the individual has no international protection needs. The agency's decision makers have access to the latest country report and an Operational Guidance Note for Sri Lanka; this helps to ensure that claims for protection are considered in light of objective information."

 

Deported Tamils Being Tortured 

On 6th June 2012 reacting to the article in the Guardian ‘Tamils deported to Sri Lanka from Britain being tortured, victim claims’ Gareth Thomas MP said:

 

“David Cameron and Theresa May need to explain why they sent Tamils back to a country where human rights have little value and where the UN is still being denied the independent war crimes investigation it has repeatedly called for.

This story needs to be fully investigated; all deportations of Tamils back to Sri Lanka should be stopped until the human rights situation improves and a proper Parliamentary debate needs to take place.”

 

On 24th May 2012 Gareth Thomas MP again raised the current situation in Sri Lanka in the House of Commons.

 

You can read the relevant part of his speech below or read it at the followinglink: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120524/debtext/120524-0002.htm#12052457001319

You can also watch the speech here:Video of the debate(skip to 04.11 hours in)

 

Deportation

Asked by Mr Thomas on 24th May 2012:

 

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether she plans to review the implications for her policy on deportations to Sri Lanka of the death of Easwarathasan Kietheeswaran; and if she will make a statement.

 

Answered by: Damian Green: | Department: Home Department

 

Damian Green:

 

We do not comment on individual cases. The UK Border Agency's returns policy to Sri Lanka is kept constantly under review and decisions are taken in the light of prevailing circumstances. Returns are only enforced when it is safe to do so and when the agency and the courts are satisfied that the individual has no international protection needs.

 

 

Killed Deportee

Tabled by: Mr Gareth Thomas on 21st May

 

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assessment he has made of the reasons for the death of Easwarathasan Kietheeswaran, who was deported to Sri Lanka and found dead; and if he will make a statement.

 

Awaiting reply.

 

 

Violence against Women

Asked by: Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West)

 

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development with reference to the International Crisis Group report on Sri Lanka: Women's Insecurity in the North and East, if he will provide aid to non-governmental organisations in Sri Lanka to assist women who are or are at risk of becoming victims of sexual violence and exploitation.

 

Answered by: Duncan, Alan | Department: Department for International Development

 

There are no plans for DFID to provide further bilateral aid to non-government organisations in Sri Lanka. Her Majesty's Government continues to have concerns about human rights in Sri Lanka and the High Commission in Colombo regularly meets with the Sri Lankan Government to discuss a range of these issues, including those of women in the North and East.

 

26 Apr 2012 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 105677 | 543 c987W

 

 

Asylum Seekers

Asked by: Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West)

 

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 16 April 2012, Official Report, column 197W, on Sri Lanka, whether the six returnees are (a) still in custody and (b) have been convicted; and if he will make a statement.

 

Answered by: Burt, Alistair | Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

We do not routinely monitor individual unsuccessful asylum seekers once they are removed from the UK. They are, by definition, foreign nationals who have been found as a matter of law not to need the UK's protection. Nor do we assume any responsibility for monitoring judicial proceedings against foreign nationals in their own country.

 

25 Apr 2012 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 104338 | 543 c943W

 

 

Travel Bans

Asked by: Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West)

 

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will initiate discussions on an EU-wide travel ban for people accused of serious human rights abuses in Sri Lanka at the end of the recent conflict; and if he will make a statement.

 

Answered by: Burt, Alistair | Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

We have consistently called for an independent, thorough and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by both sides in the military conflict.We pressed for and welcome the Sri Lanka resolution agreed at the UN Human Rights Council in March. We urge the Sri Lankan Government to take the necessary steps to implement the recommendations of their lessons learnt and reconciliation commission as soon as possible.There are currently no plans to initiate discussions with EU counterparts on possible travel restrictions on Sri Lankan nationals accused of human rights abuses at the end of the conflict.

 

23 Apr 2012 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 104665 | 543 c763W

 

Asylum

Asked by: Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West)

 

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many refused asylum seekers have been removed with escorts to Sri Lanka in each month since May 2010.

 

Answered by: Green, Damian

 

This information is not held in a format compatible with National Statistics protocols.However, published statistics are available on a quarterly and annual basis which report on removals to Sri Lanka broken down by quarter. This publication is available from the Library of the House and from the Home Office Science, Research and Statistics website at:"http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/science-research-statistics/research-statistics/immigration-asylum-research/immigration-q4-2011/"

 

16 Apr 2012 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 103071 | 543 c10W

 

 

Deportation

Asked by: Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West)

 

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of people who have been removed with escorts to Sri Lanka who have (a) maintained contact with the British high commission and (b) been interviewed or arrested by the Sri Lankan authorities; and if he will make a statement.

 

Answered by: Burt, Alistair | Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

Since 2008, the British high commission in Colombo has provided its contact details to around 250 returnees. In addition, many returnees are involved in community-based projects.All chartered flight returnees are interviewed by the Sri Lankan authorities. Six returnees have been arrested by the Sri Lankan authorities, five of them for document fraud.

 

16 Apr 2012 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 103070 | 543 c197W

 

 

Deportation: Sri Lanka

Asked by: Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West)

 

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people have been deported to Sri Lanka (a) in total and (b) in each month since May 2010.

 

Answered by: Green, Damian

 

The following table provides the available information on the total number of all nationals who were removed or departed voluntarily from the UK to Sri Lanka in each month since May 2010.

 

 

 

Removals and voluntary departures¹ to Sri Lanka², May 2010 to December 2011³

 

Number of departures

2010

 

May

41

June

54

July

34

August

54

September

42

October

56

November

62

December

54

 

 

2011

 

January

58

February

57

March

81

April

41

May

48

June

75

July

48

August

75

September

105

October

84

November

88

December

105

Total

1,262

¹ Removals and voluntary departures recorded on the system as at the dates on which the data extracts were taken.

 

² Destination as recorded on source database.

 

³ Provisional figures. Figures will under record due to data cleansing and data matching exercises that take place after the extracts are taken.

 

 

The Home Office publishes quarterly and annual statistics on the number of persons removed or departed voluntarily from the UK within Immigration Statistics. The data on removals and voluntary departures by country of destination are available in the latest release, Immigration Statistics, October to December 2011, tables rv.06 and rv.06.q, from the Library of the House and from the Home Office Science, research and statistics web pages at:"http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/science-research/research-statistics/migration/migration-statistics1/"

 

16 Apr 2012 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 102544 | 543 c11-2W

 

 

Travel restrictions

Asked by: Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West)

 

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has discussed with his EU counterparts the possible imposition of travel restrictions on people accused of committing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement.

 

Answered by: Burt, Alistair | Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

There have been no discussions with EU counterparts on possible travel restrictions on the Sri Lankans accused of committing human rights abuses.In August 2010, the EU decided to suspend its Generalised System of Preferences+ trading agreement with Sri Lanka in response to its failure to comply with a number of international human rights agreements.

 

16 Apr 2012 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 102543 | 543 c197W

 

 

War Crimes 

Asked by: Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West)

 

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with representatives of the International Criminal Court on arrest warrants for people accused of war crimes in Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement.

 

Answered by: Burt, Alistair | Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

There have been no recent discussions with representatives of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Sri Lanka.Sri Lanka is not party to the Rome Statute, so the ICC has no jurisdiction to investigate the situation in that country. The ICC could only exercise jurisdiction if the situation is referred to it by a UN Security Council Resolution, or if Sri Lanka accepts the Court's jurisdiction.

 

20 Mar 2012 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 101194 | 542 c595W

 

 

War Crimes

Asked by: Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West)

 

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on allegations of war crimes committed during the recent conflict in Sri Lanka; if he will assess whether human rights abuses are taking place in that country; and if he will make a statement.

 

Answered by: Burt, Alistair | Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

The UN Secretary General's Panel of Experts Report, which was published in April 2011, found credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law was committed by both the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. That is why we support an independent, thorough and credible investigation into the grave allegations. We were disappointed by the findings and recommendations on accountability for alleged war crimes in the Sri Lankan Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission's report which was published in December 2011, though we believe it made other recommendations that the Government of Sri Lankan should implement.We have serious concerns about human rights in Sri Lanka, including disappearances, political violence, reports of torture in custody and restrictions on free expression. Sri Lanka is a Country of Concern in our annual Human Rights and Democracy Report. We continue to raise our concerns directly with the Government of Sri Lanka and call upon it to investigate reports of human rights abuses wherever they occur.

Sri Lanka Questions 2012

UN Leaked Report 14th November 2012Gareth Thomas MP tweeted today about the leaked UN report on Sri Lanka. He wrote:"Yet more evidence of the scale of human rights abuses in...

Sri Lanka Questions 2011

 

Sri Lanka
Asked by: Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on which occasions the British ambassador to Sri Lanka or his senior staff have met hon. Members in Sri Lanka in each month since May 2010; and if he will make a statement.

Answered by: Burt, Alistair | Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 Hon. Members visit our global network of posts frequently and we do not hold a central record of meetings. Our high commission in Sri Lanka confirms the following meetings: October 2010"A delegation from the UK Commonwealth Parliamentary Association that included the hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant); the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond); the hon. Member for Southend West (Mr Amess); the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Paul Murphy); and the hon. Member for East Lothian (Fiona O'Donnell)."February 2011"The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field);""The hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell);""The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann)."July 2011"The right hon. Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox)."October 2011"The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard)."I also visited Sri Lanka on an official visit in February 2011.
 
08 Nov 2011 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 78211 | 535 c163W
 

Asylum 
Asked by: Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West)
 
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many failed Tamil asylum seekers have been returned to Sri Lanka in each month since May 2010; and if she will make a statement.

Answered by: Green, Damian | Department: Home Office
 
The UK Border Agency does not record specific data regarding an individual's ethnicity.The information can be provided only at disproportionate cost as it would require a manual search of individual case files.The UK Border Agency can identify that between 1 May 2010 and 30 September 2011, 573 failed asylum seekers have been returned to Sri Lanka.

02 Nov 2011 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 77341 | 534 c638W

 
Asylum
Asked by: Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many UK Border Agency (UKBA) flights to Sri Lanka there have been in each month since May 2010; how many failed Tamil asylum seekers were on each flight; how many are still in contact with UKBA or other Government representatives; and if she will make a statement.
 
Answered by: Green, Damian | Department: Home Office

Where a person is found not to be in need of international protection and they have no other lawful basis to remain in the UK, we expect them to leave the country. We would prefer such people leave voluntarily and we provide a number of comprehensive schemes to assist them with doing so, but if they fail to leave, we will enforce their departure.Most people whose removal is being enforced leave on scheduled flights, but in the case of Sri Lanka, the UK Border Agency has also chartered two flights, one in June 2011 returning 26 people and a second in September 2011 returning 50. These were Sri Lankan nationals; the UK Border Agency only keeps records of nationality rather than ethnicity.We monitor the conditions in countries across the world closely and only seek to return people where it is safe to do so and it would not put the UK in breach of its international obligations. The UK Border Agency does not routinely monitor the treatment of individual subjects once they are removed from the UK given they have been found not to be in need of international protection. However, in the case of Sri Lanka, we currently provide those being returned with the contact details of the high commission in Colombo.

 01 Nov 2011 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 77340 | 534 c492W

 
Sri Lanka: Human Rights
Asked by: Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West)
 
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has received reports of human rights abuses committed against those of Tamil origin in Sri Lanka since May 2010; and if he will make a statement.
Answered by: Burt, Alistair | Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

We continue to have concerns about human rights in Sri Lanka. These are detailed in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Human Rights and Democracy Report 2010 where Sri Lanka is listed as a country of concern. Our high commission in Colombo continues to monitor the situation.We consistently raise our concerns with the Sri Lankan Government, most recently when I spoke to the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister on 20 October. We also regularly urge the Sri Lankan Government to improve the human rights situation for vulnerable groups, to investigate incidents and to prosecute those responsible.

 
Sri Lanka: Prisoners
Asked by: Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West)
 
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of reports of deaths among Tamil prisoners detained in Anuradhapura prison, Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement.
 
Answered by: Burt, Alistair | Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

We were concerned to hear about the recent prison riots, which led to the death of one Sinhalese prisoner and the injury of other prisoners. There is no suggestion that the riots were ethnically driven. We understand that the Sri Lankan authorities are looking into the causes of the riots. Our high commission has discussed the need to expedite the hearing of cases and overcrowded prison conditions with the Sri Lankan Government.

Sri Lanka Questions 2011

Sri Lanka Questions 2011   Sri LankaAsked by: Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West)To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on which occasions the British ambassador to Sri...

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