Written by Bella Dalima
29 Nov, 2014 | 7:30 pm
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said that Australian authorities have turned back a boat of Sri Lankan asylum seekers after intercepting them near the Indonesian coast.
Australian media reports that border protection staff intercepted the vessel carrying 38 asylum seekers on Saturday November 15 and handed them over to the Sri Lankan Navy on Thursday November 27.
The Sri Lankans are the first to be turned back in five months as Australia’s highest court hears a test case challenging the government’s right to intercept asylum seekers’ boats outside its territorial waters.
Australian Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison said:
[quote]We have just returned thirty seven passengers on a people smuggling venture from Sri Lanka to Sri Lanka and there was one individual who has been transferred to off-shore processing facilities to further look into information that he provided regarding his own situation. But thirty seven of the other passengers were returned[/quote]
The number of asylum seekers reaching Australia pales in comparison with other countries but it is a polarizing political issue, on which Prime Minister Tony Abbott campaigned heavily before last year’s election win.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has intervened in the test case, reflecting the level of international concern over Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers on the high seas.
Australia received 16,000 applications for asylum last year, just under 0.5 percent of the 3.6 million lodged worldwide.
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