Australian Government returns Sri Lankan people smuggling venture
Monday, 07 July 2014
The Australian and Sri Lankan governments have moved swiftly to return a group of 41 Sri Lankan nationals who attempted to arrive illegally by boat to Australia as part of a maritime people smuggling venture.
The suspected illegal entry vessel (SIEV) was intercepted by Border Protection Command West of Cocos (Keeling) Islands in late June. At no stage was the vessel in distress and all persons aboard the SIEV were safe and accounted for.
Forty one potential illegal maritime arrivals who were intercepted on the SIEV were returned to Sri Lankan authorities yesterday (Sunday 6 July). The 41 Sri Lankan nationals were transferred at sea, in mild sea conditions from a vessel assigned to Border Protection Command (BPC) to Sri Lankan authorities, just outside the Port of Batticaloa.
All persons intercepted and returned were subjected to an enhanced screening process, as also practised by the previous government, to ensure compliance by Australia with our international obligations under relevant conventions.
This process includes identifying any person who may need to be referred to a further determination process. In such cases, the government's policy is to transfer such persons to either Papua New Guinea or Nauru for offshore processing.
In the single case where such a referral was recommended, the individual, a Sinhalese Sri Lankan national, voluntarily requested to depart the vessel with the other persons being transferred and returned to Sri Lanka.
This transfer of 41 persons, including 37 Sinhalese and 4 Tamil Sri Lankan nationals, follows previous returns to Sri Lanka including 79 illegal maritime arrivals under Operation Sovereign Borders last year.
The Australian Government will continue to act in accordance with our international obligations, including applicable international conventions and to protect the safety of life at sea. At the same time we will not allow people smugglers to try and exploit and manipulate Australia's support of these Conventions as a tool to undermine Australia's strong border protection regime that is stopping the boats and the deaths at sea.
Accordingly, the Government will continue to reject the public and political advocacy of those who have sought to pressure the Government into a change of policy. Their advocacy, though well intentioned, is naively doing the bidding of people smugglers who have been responsible for almost 1200 deaths at sea.
We will continue to do what we said we would, consistent with our obligations, and achieve the results we said we would achieve.
Today is the 200th day since the last people smuggling venture successfully arrived. In that time no one has drowned at sea. This is an outcome the Government welcomes.
Australia and Sri Lanka have a strong history of cooperation at the operational level to disrupt people smuggling ventures departing Sri Lanka. We are grateful for the efforts of the Sri Lankan Navy to combat people smuggling, as well as other Sri Lankan authorities.
Sri Lanka is one of many close partners with whom the Australian Government works in our region. The Australian Government looks forward to continued cooperation with Sri Lanka. Australia's cooperation with Sri Lanka is as important as it is effective.
The Australian Government does not deal in half measures and has the policies and resolve to fight people smugglers and stop illegal boat arrivals.
People should not trust the lies of people smugglers and seek to come to Australia illegally by boat. It is dangerous and the Australian Government's strong border protection policies under Operation Sovereign Borders mean they will not succeed.
Last update: Monday, 07 July 2014 at 09:46 AEST