By Uditha Jayasinghe
Australia returned 39 more Sri Lankans yesterday who attempted to illegally migrate, making the total of returnees top 1,000 since the program began last year, the Embassy said here in a statement.
The Gillard Government has returned more than 1,000 Sri Lankan irregular maritime arrivals. Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Brendan O’Connor was quoted as saying in the statement that the group was advised its members were subject to removal from Australia as none had raised issues that engaged Australia’s international obligations.
The group comprised 38 irregular maritime arrivals who arrived at Geraldton last week. Processing of the remaining passengers continues.
One of the irregular maritime arrivals was from a different vessel. Without a valid visa, the 39 had no legal right to remain in Australia.
Since 13 August last year, 1,004 Sri Lankans who arrived as irregular maritime arrivals have departed Australia – 795 of them involuntarily.
“Returning this group to Sri Lanka sends the powerful message that people who pay smugglers are throwing their money away and risking their lives in the process. There is no fast track to Australia – irrespective of whether someone arrives at an excised offshore place; if they do not engage Australia’s protection obligations, they will be returned home,” O’Connor had said.
Australian officials have also observed that economic reasons are the main motivation behind Sri Lankans attempting to migrate.
Sri Lanka’s Navy has also apprehended over 1,500 people while they were attempting to illegally migrate to Australia by boat.
The Australian Government is working closely with the local Navy to monitor and prevent boat people from Sri Lanka and have implemented awareness programs to discourage locals from attempting to illegally migrate.