Written by Staff Writer
30 May, 2019 | 2:04 pm
COLOMBO (News 1st) – A boat carrying 20 Sri Lankan asylum seekers has been intercepted on its way to Australia.
The Department of Home Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack have confirmed that authorities intercepted the boat last week and the asylum seekers had been returned to Sri Lanka.
According to Australian reports, the vessel, which was carrying at least one baby, was spotted in the Indian Ocean heading for the north-west coast. The asylum seekers were detained for a few days on Christmas Island before being flown to Colombo on a government charter jet on Wednesday after their asylum claims were rejected.
It is the first time in five years that asylum seekers attempting to reach Australia have been taken by sea to Christmas Island.
McCormack told ABC AM that the asylum seekers were intercepted “and as with all these boats that come unauthorised [they were] turned back”.
When asked if the asylum seekers had their claims processed on Christmas Island and what their basis for seeking asylum was, McCormack, replied: “The vessel left Sri Lanka illegally in early May 2019, it was intercepted by Australian authorities and it has been turned back.
“No, I’m not going to provide any more details because of security reasons – that’s always the case.”
The UN has warned that Australia’s policy of pushing back boats with asylum seekers is illegal under international law, and criticised previous instances of the forced return of people to Sri Lanka without proper assessment of their asylum claims.
Border Force said in a statement that Australia had now returned 186 people to Sri Lanka from 10 people smuggling boats since September 2013.
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