1,000 Sri Lankan boat people returned by Australia

Colombo, April 29 (IANS) The Australian government repatriated 25 more Sri Lankans who tried to illegally migrate, bringing the total number of boat people returned to over 1,000, the Australian embassy said Monday.

The group was advised of its status and that all its 25 members were subject to removal from Australia as none raised issues that engaged Australia’s international obligations, Xinhua quoted the statement as saying.

Without valid visa, the 25 had no legal right to remain in Australia, the statement said, adding that all were recent arrivals.

Since Aug 13 last year, 1,029 Sri Lankans have returned home — 819 of them involuntarily.

All of them fled Sri Lanka following the end of the long running Tamil separatist conflict in 2009. Fleeing Tamils allege they feel threatened in Sri Lanka.

Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Brendan O’ Connor was quoted as saying in the statement that the group was advised that its members were subject to removal from Australia as none had raised issues that engaged Australia’s international obligations.

“Returning this group to Sri Lanka sends the powerful message that people who pay smugglers are throwing their money away and risking their lives in the process,” O’Connor said.

“There is no fast track to Australia — irrespective of whether someone arrives at an excised offshore place. If they do not engage Australia’s protection obligations, they will be returned home,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s navy has also apprehended over 1,500 people while they were attempting to illegally migrate to Australia by boat.

Australia is working closely with the local navy to monitor and prevent boat people from Sri Lanka and have implemented awareness programs to discourage locals from attempting to illegally migrate.

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