Shocking: Lankan asylum seekers “almost sent back to India on lifeboats”

Shocking: Lankan asylum seekers “almost sent back to India on lifeboats”

Written by Staff Writer

04 Aug, 2014 | 7:59 pm

India says that they never agreed to accept the return of non-citizen Tamil asylum seekers except to investigate the situation of non citizens when they were invited by Australia to determine the residency and the identity of 157 asylum seekers, when they were being held at Curtin Detention Centre in Western Australia.

Meanwhile, reports have come to light that Australian authorities attempted to load the group of asylum seekers of reportedly Sri Lankan origin, onto lifeboats and send them back to India, while they were being detained on board an Australian customs vessel.

Hugh de Kretser, a Lawyer representing the Asylum seekers said that he was given a harrowing account by a 34-year old asylum seeker, that nine of the 157 were instructed by Australian officials to pilot an orange life boat to travel to Kanyakumari, India in five hours.

Executive Director of Human Rights Law Centre, Australia, Hugh de Kretser expressed following views:

“The government’s willingness to consider forcing 157 men, women and children as young as one, onto lifeboats and dump them at sea somewhere off the coast of India makes a complete mockery of its claims to care for their well-being and to care for safety at sea. Secret detention on the high seas, moving to dump families in lifeboats in the ocean, secret overnight transfers, misleading the public, frustrating access to lawyers and the courts, these are not the actions of a government that respects the rule of law, open and transparent democracy or basic human rights.”

Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly refused to confirm whether attempts had been made to return the asylum seekers to India using Australian orange lifeboats.

The Australian government’s move to load the group of asylum seekers back to India happened on  July 14 as they were challenged in the High court over the group’s detention on the high seas.

The 157 asylum seekers are currently being detained at the offshore facility in Nauru where they were transferred after refusing to speak with Indian consular officials regarding being sent back to their port of origin.

Spokesperson for the Indian High Commission in Australia, Tarun Kumar said the only commitment that India had given in addition to taking back Indian citizens, was to investigate the non-Indian citizens.

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