People smuggling a serious issue

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The government says people smuggling has become a serious issue of concern. Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem said that Sri Lanka and Australia have been closely working together, and with other countries in the region though the Bali Process, to combat people smuggling.

A workshop on people smuggling and international crime cooperation for 39 Sri Lankan Magistrates was held in Negombo over the weekend as part of efforts to deal with the issue, the Australian High Commission in Colombo said.

The workshop was held under the auspices of the Australia – Sri Lanka Memorandum of Understanding concerning Legal Cooperation against the Smuggling of Migrants signed in December 2009.

Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem, and Australia’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Robyn Mudie, opened the workshop, which was co-hosted by the Ministry of Justice and Australia’s Attorney-General’s Department.

Robyn Mudie said cooperation between Australia and Sri Lanka in combating people smuggling and transnational crime had never been as close as it is today.

“Our combined efforts entered a new era with the establishment of the Australia-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on people smuggling and transnational Crime in December 2012, which was opened by Australia’s Foreign Minster Carr and Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Minister Peiris”.

“By holding this workshop on people smuggling and mutual legal assistance for Magistrates we are fulfilling one of the key priority activities identified at the Joint Working Group meeting and demonstrating our commitment to bilateral legal cooperation against the smuggling of migrants.”

Navy Commander, Vice Admiral Colombage, presented on the current context of people smuggling from Sri Lanka and the Sri Lanka Navy’s role and success in combating maritime people smuggling.

Vice Admiral Colombage said “the human rights of those who attempt to undergo the journey are grossly violated by people smugglers. Boats intercepted by the navy are overcrowded with limited food, water and fuel for them to make the dangerous journey and are often unseaworthy”.

The workshop also included presentations from Sri Lankan and Australian experts on obligations under international frameworks, people smuggling investigations and prosecutions (including practical case studies), current bilateral cooperation and the importance of international cooperation in combating people smuggling and transnational crime.

Work under the MOU has enhanced understanding of the legal system and frameworks used by Australia, Sri Lanka and internationally to combat people smuggling and transnational crime. (Colombo Gazette)