More Lankans reach Australia by boat

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Another boatload of Sri Lankans has reached Australia, the second within a week, the Australian media reported.

A boatload of 40 Sri Lankan asylum seekers arrived at the Cocos Islands late on Tuesday, immediately putting the resources of the main island and its 500 inhabitants under immense pressure, the West Australian reported.

The latest arrivals have been put up at the Cocos Club, the island’s only pub, with local volunteers pitching in to help the island’s two Federal Police and Customs officials process and contain the group. It was understood the boat was barely seaworthy but had internet and GPS equipment.

Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship are arranging for the passengers to be transferred to Christmas Island for security, health and identity checks.

The Cocos Islands are almost halfway between Perth and Sri Lanka – about 3000km each way – and are an Australian territory comprised of 27 mostly uninhabited islands.

Locals said they feared the island did not have enough supplies or resources to support the sudden increase to its population. They said the Cocos Club was grossly under-resourced to accommodate the arrivals.

A resident, who did not wish to be named, said the asylum seekers would put a heavy strain on island volunteers, the supermarket, community groups and clubs.

“All the volunteers also have their other jobs,” she said.

“They’re teachers and electricians and shire workers. They all have to give up their jobs to go and volunteer.”

So far this year, not including yesterday’s arrivals, 578 Sri Lankan asylum seekers have arrived in Australian waters compared with 211 for all of last year.