Thursday, 24 April 2014 00:18
Australia says its relationship with Sri Lanka can be broader as a result of the efforts taken by both countries to fight people smuggling.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said that both countries must apply the same focus and co-operation that they have achieved on people-smuggling to the broader challenge of transnational crime, The Australian newspaper reported.
The number of Sri Lankans who became Australian citizens jumped 74% to 3,456 last year, while there were 4,987 Sri Lankans who came to Australia legally with visas for work and for family reunions.
Morrison said the rising trends of legal migration were “a guide to what you would continue to expect” as he guaranteed 4,000 humanitarian places would be available for people in refugee camps around the world, with high demand from Africa and the Middle East. “The suggestion that the only way you could get to Australia is on a leaky boat is not true,” Morrison said after addressing a Sri Lanka-Australia security conference on transnational crime in Canberra.
“If people have a legitimate reason for coming then they can.”
Morrison said the last illegal boat carrying Sri Lankans was months ago and all 79 on board were sent back to Sri Lanka. The Immigration Minister said stopping the arrival of illegal boats during the past four months had allowed the Government to increase the number of places for humanitarian migration from 500 under Labour to 4,000 a year.
Cooperation with Sri Lanka was one of a series of policies that have helped the Abbott government “stop the boats” including turning boats back to Indonesian waters, offshore processing in PNG, temporary visas and the moves by Indonesia and Malaysia to stop entry to their countries without visas.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees figures released last week showed that between late December and the end of last month, the number of asylum-seekers registering had fallen from 100 people daily to about 100 people weekly.
“We must apply the same focus and co-operation that we have achieved on people-smuggling to the broader challenge of transnational crime,” Morrison told representatives of the Defence, army, navy and customs of Australia and Sri Lanka.
Morrison said Sri Lanka and Australia were working together to disrupt people-smuggling syndicates, “to deliver strong messages that Australia will not resettle anyone who arrives illegally by boat, and to improve capacity to address people-smuggling and improve border management”.
“The Sri Lankan authorities are committed to combating people-smuggling and continue to disrupt people-smuggling ventures all over the island,” he said.
“We are very grateful for the enormous efforts of the Sri Lanka Navy, the Sri Lanka Police Force and other law enforcement and prosecuting agencies.”
Morrison later told The Australian: “Our more recent experience over the issue of people-smuggling, which has been very deep and very close, has opened the door to the broader opportunities of the relationship. Significant numbers of Sri Lankans are becoming Australian citizens.”
He said the total of 3,456 Sri Lankans who became Australian citizens in 2012-13 represented a 74% increase from 2011-12.