Tamils say they would still pay people smugglers to journey to Australia

Saturday, 5 October 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

ABC: Tamils in northern Sri Lanka say they are still prepared to pay people smugglers to get them to Australia, despite the new Government’s crackdown. Thousands of Tamils have left the region in the aftermath of the country’s civil war, and many say they would do anything to travel to a safe country like Australia. Murali, a Tamil, works as a goat herder in a small village not far from Jaffna, the main city in Sri Lanka’s north. He got in touch with people smugglers late last year, handing over $3,000 to join more than 80 people crammed inside the hull of a small fishing boat. “The Government doesn’t like me because I am Tamil and they just assume I am a Tamil Tiger supporter,” he said. After three weeks at sea, Murali’s journey ended at Christmas Island, where he was processed and sent back to Sri Lanka. “We were on Christmas Island for about 20 days,” he said. “After that, the officials told us we were being transferred to another place. They didn’t tell us it was going to be Sri Lanka.” Tough new laws not working as a deterrent Nine months later, Murali says the Government’s tough new laws have not deterred him from trying to make the journey again. “We heard about the people being transferred to Papua New Guinea on the television and the radio,” he said. “I would still rather still rather live there than in Sri Lanka.” Krishnan, another Tamil who was sent back to Sri Lanka after travelling to Australia by boat, says he too would be prepared to make the journey again. “I pawned my shop for 10 lakhs or over $8,000 to pay for my voyage and I am still working to get it back now,” he said. “I didn’t know about the tough laws Australia has before I left Sri Lanka. But I am very scared living here in Sri Lanka and I would pay again to go to Australia.” Tamils looking for ‘security and dignity’, human rights activist says Ruki Fernando, a human rights activist based in Colombo, says there are a number of reasons why Australia is attractive destination for Tamil refugees. “Whether it’s economic factors or whether it’s political persecution, it’s because they are unable to live with dignity and in a secure way,” he said. But Foreign Minister Professor G.L. Peiris says the Government’s message has made an impact. “This heavenly life which they have been led to expect is not going to materialise,” he said. “They will not be allowed to work there or, indeed, land there. They will be sent to Manus Island.”