The Gillard government (in Australia) has returned a group of 26 Sri Lankan men to Sri Lanka on a charter flight that left from Christmas Island last night.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said in a statement that the men arrived by boat at Christmas Island and Cocos Islands earlier this week, and ”raised no issues that engaged Australia’s international obligations”.
”Without a valid visa they had no legal right to remain in Australia and were removed at the earliest opportunity,” Mr Bowen said.
Mr Bowen said the government had also returned the final member of a group of Sri Lankans who arrived on a fishing trawler which was allegedly hijacked in Sri Lankan waters.
The group of 15 were intercepted near the Cocos (Keeling) Islands a week ago and 14 of the men were flown back to Sri Lanka the next day.
”As with the particular case of those people returned to Sri Lanka last week, there are powers available to the government to return people where they do not engage Australia’s international obligations – and when appropriate we certainly intend to use them,” Mr Bowen said.
He said 116 Sri Lankans had been returned home either voluntarily and involuntarily since the government’s offshore processing began on August 13.
”People who pay smugglers are risking their lives and throwing their money away. There is no visa awaiting them on arrival, no speedy outcome, and no special treatment,” Mr Bowen said.
”This government is committed to breaking the evil people smuggling trade and preventing people from taking dangerous boats.” (Sydney Morning Herald)