SL asylum seekers turn out to be economic migrants, not refugees’ says Aussie Deputy Opp. Leader

Tuesday, 4 September 2012 01:46 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Coalition says the Australian Government should no longer grant refugee status to people from Sri Lanka because the country’s war is over.

Australian Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop says many Sri Lankan asylum seekers turn out to be economic migrants, not refugees.

She says Sri Lankan asylum seekers should be deported before they get access to Australia’s legal system.

“Sri Lanka is already making a significant effort by preventing many boats from leaving their shores, however those who make it through should be the subject to an immediate arrangement to be transferred back to Sri Lanka without coming to Australia,” Bishop said.

“There is an extremely high rejection rate for Sri Lankan asylum seekers with the vast majority proving to be economic migrants.

“But once they are in Australia they can pursue their claims for asylum through our courts regardless of the merit.”

Ms Bishop was speaking after it was revealed Indonesian police were holding around 50 Sri Lankan asylum seekers, including seven children, whose boat broke down on the way to Australia.

The 50 Sri Lankan asylum seekers were discovered adrift by fisherman near the Mentawai Islands. After nine days at sea, they were dehydrated and hungry.

Meanwhile Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said his government would not return Sri Lankan asylum seekers to their country of origin without fully assessing any claims for protection, the AAP reported.

“Australia has and will return failed asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, but does not return asylum seekers to their country of origin without fully assessing any claims for protection,” he said.

The Sri Lankan government will introduce tough laws for human traffickers and organisers of boat trips and measures will be taken to forfeit their assets and will serve a jail term of up to 20 years instead of the present two. Immigration and Emigration Chief Chulanada Perera said his department would strengthen the Immigration and Emigrations Amendment Act of 2006 in an effort to end human trafficking in Sri Lanka.

He said human trafficking would be made a non-bailable offence.

In a move to cut back on the growing number of illegal asylum seekers, the Sri Lankan navy has requested that its Australian counterparts send back all illegal boats.

The Sri Lankan navy had stepped up its patrols around Sri Lanka’s maritime borders in an attempt to turn back the illegal boats.