Australia deports 73 Lankan asylum seekers

The Australian government flew back 73 asylum seekers who tried to enter the country in boats last week.

By Qadijah Irshad

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Published: Sat 19 Oct 2013, 9:27 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 4:32 PM

The Sri Lankans who had sought asylum were flown back to their home country, following a preliminary assessment on Christmas Island, where Australian immigration detention facilities are located.

According to Australian officials patrolling the borders, 167 asylum seekers had tried to enter Australian waters last week. Of these arrivals, a boat carrying 79 Sri Lankans was intercepted last Saturday and 73 of them were deported. Four other Lankans have been kept under observation to assess their health conditions before they can be flown back to their home country at the earliest.

Australia said that none of the Sri Lankans were eligible to seek refugee status, and their deportation would be consistent with Australia’s protection obligations.

Despite Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd passing a legislation that does not accept future asylum seekers in Australia’s Christmas Island, Sri Lankans, mainly from the Tamil minority community continue to seek asylum in Australia.

Last month the kingpin of a human smuggling racket in Sri Lanka was arrested. The Sri Lankan police say people, especially from remote areas, are duped into undertaking the perilous journey by paying more than a million rupees per person even though Australian authorities have stopped accepting refugees.

Australia has refused to recognise Sri Lankans as bona fide asylum seekers after the end of Sri Lanka’s war against the Tamil Tigers in 2009. However, Sri Lankans continue to make the perilous journey to Australia in the hope of gaining Australian citizenship. More than 4,000 boat people have been deported back to Sri Lanka in the past four years.

Last month alone 4,145 would-be illegal immigrants to Australia have been apprehended and brought back to the country, said the Sri Lankan navy. Another few hundred people — including women and children have been arrested onshore, just before embarkation.

Last year Australia reported that Sri Lankans topped the list of people attempting to enter their country illegally. Of 16,770 people attempting to enter the country through boats, 6,360 were Sri Lankans.

Hundreds of people, including Sri Lankans have died over the years while making the dangerous journey in small, overcrowded boats.

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