Aussie delegation in Lanka to stop boat people

A high level Australian delegation is in Sri Lanka to look at ways to curb boat people reaching Australia to seek asylum.

The delegation had talks with the Navy Commander as well as the Ministry of Defence and other officials in Sri Lanka.

Speaking to the media in Colombo this evening Peter Vardos, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, said that Australia is working with Sri Lanka at various levels on the human smuggling issue.

He said that both countries have also achieved progress on a “returns agreement” which looks at deporting illegal asylum seekers who reach Australia.

Vardos also said that both Sri Lanka and Australia hope to put together a working group to deal with the issue and in the meantime Australia will continue with its momentum in returning Sri Lankans who reach Australia illegally.

Asked if he saw a shortcoming on the part of the Sri Lankan navy in patrolling the sea border which results in more and more Sri Lankans managing to reach Australia by boat, the Commander of the Australian Border Protection Command Rear Admiral David Johnston said that he was happy with the efforts of the Sri Lanka navy.

He noted that the Sri Lankan navy has already managed to prevent around 3000 boat people from reaching Australia.

The Australian delegation is to visit Trincomalee as well as areas used by the boat people to make the journey by sea to Australia.

Report by Easwaran Rutnam