Colombo, Nov 22 — The Australian government has returned all the 79 Sri Lankans who had arrived illegally in Australia by boat last month, the Australian high commission here said Friday.
The high commission in Colombo said the last six Sri Lankans joined the group of 73 this week, who were returned last month after arriving illegally by boat and being screened out of a protection assessment process, reports Xinhua.
The government’s new policy implementation sends a strong message that if one arrives illegally by boat, he or she will be sent back to Sri Lanka.
“The Australian government’s policies are tougher than ever before and ensure that people seeking to come to Australia by boat without a visa do not get to stay in Australia,” said Scott Morrison, Australia’s minister for immigration and border protection.
More than 1,100 people who arrived in Australia by boat have been sent home since October 2012, the embassy said.
Australia and Sri Lanka have strong cooperation at the operational level to disrupt people-smuggling ventures, it added.
“The Australian government does not deal in half measures and has the policies and resolve to fight people smugglers and stop illegal boat arrivals,” the minister said.
“The government will continue to return people seeking to come to Australia illegally by boat.”
Despite the end of a three-decade war in 2009, the number of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka has increased, pushing the Australian government to take tough measures to prevent them from reaching the country.
At least another 1,500 people have been arrested by the navy while attempting to leave Sri Lanka by boat.
The Australian government is working closely with the navy to monitor and prevent boat people from Sri Lanka and have implemented programmes to discourage locals from attempting to migrate illegally.