Minister of Foreign Affairs Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday held a meeting with Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs MP Clare O’Neil during her visit to Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 19 to 21 June.
This is the first overseas visit Minister O’Neil has undertaken as the Home Affairs Minister reflecting the importance Australia places on the bilateral relationship with Sri Lanka, particularly during the 75th anniversary of bilateral relations between the two countries.
The two Ministers noted the strong bilateral relationship built on cooperation and determination to achieve shared interests-growing trade, investment and education opportunities, combating transnational crime as well as forging strong people-to-people links.
The two Ministers discussed opportunities to deepen the partnership between Australia and Sri Lanka, particularly the gold standard cooperation in the area of irregular migration. Minister O’Neil noted that there was no change to Australia’s border protection policies or operation sovereign borders. The two Ministers recommitted their resolve to continue working together to thwart people smugglers and to prevent the loss of life and risk to livelihoods of innocent people.
The two Ministers noted the continued close cooperation on countering all forms of transnational crime, including drug smuggling, as well as strengthening border management. They committed to enhancing these counter measures. The Australian Minister and officials participated in a roundtable discussion on countering people smuggling. Officials from both Australia and Sri Lanka provided an overview of the current situation and explored new opportunities to further strengthen and enhance cooperation and collaboration.
The two Ministers indicated their satisfaction with the ongoing cooperation under the Australia–Sri Lanka Joint Working Group (JWG) on counter people smuggling and other transnational crime and concurred to have as early as possible the 8th round of the JWG in Sri Lanka when conditions permit.
The two Ministers also noted the strong bilateral cooperation between the two countries in intelligence sharing, deterrence, disruption, interception and returns under the border security operations known as operation sovereign borders.
The visiting Minister reiterated Australia’s strong support to Sri Lanka in its efforts to overcome the current economic challenges and agreed to cooperate with Sri Lanka in this context.