Concerns mount as Australia remains silent on fate of Sri Lanka asylum seekers

Concerns mount as Australia remains silent on fate of Sri Lanka asylum seekers

Written by Staff Writer

06 Jul, 2014 | 10:02 pm

As the Australian government maintains its silence on the fate of at least 200 reportedly Sri Lankan asylum seekers, aboard two boats which were purportedly intercepted by Australian authorities, off the coast of Christmas Island, last week, Australia’s the ABC reports, that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, will be attending the commissioning ceremony for the two former Australian Customs patrol vessels gifted to the Sri Lankan Government.

Australia announced the gift of two Bay-class patrol boats in November last year, after the vessels saw about ten years of service with Australian Customs.

The ABC reports that the vessels have been brought back to full operational capability at a cost of two million Australian Dollars and will be used by Sri Lanka to help combat people smuggling in the Indian Ocean.

Meanwhile, Refugee lawyer David Manne says the international community has the right to be interested in the Australian Government’s policies on asylum seekers.

Manne told the BBC that not enough information is being shared.

He said, “The Australian Government is imposing a shroud of secrecy on the treatment and the fate of asylum seekers at sea in circumstances where we have profound obligations to protect people fleeing from prosecution.”

Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Australia, Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe has told the ABC that since the end of the war in 2009 there has been peace in Sri Lanka.

The ABC quoted the High Commissioner as saying, “There is no reason for any Sri Lankan to leave Sri Lanka other than economic opportunities”.

He added, “There have been thousands of failed asylum seekers who have been either voluntarily or involuntarily returned to Sri Lanka.They are leading a normal life in Sri Lanka with no harassment.”

Meanwhile, Senior Australian Government Minister Eric Abetz, says that the Australian government is not disappearing asylum seekers, adding that the details of the matter would be revealed in due course.

Abetz made these remarks on ABC’s Insiders program.

“What I would simply say is that the arrangements that are being put into place, and I’m not aware of them, will be subject to, the laws that apply and as I understand it, we have arrangements with a repatriation program with the international migration office, and one would imagine that the liaison with such an international body, ensures that people that are so repatriated are looked after.”

Q:When will the Australian government tell us what has happened to these asylum seekers?

Abetz:

In due course, these matters will be revealed, but it makes absolute sense, that you do not give a blow by blow description in the middle of an operational matter, and I think most Australians as they watch this program, will say we don’t expect the government to give a blow by blow description in the middle of an operational matter.

Meanwhile, News1st learns, that Tamil Nadu’s Q branch police have commenced a programme to count the number of refugees in camps in the state.

Our reporter in Rameswaram, says the police have been visiting camps in the mornings and evenings, inquiring into the whereabouts and current status of refugees there.

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