Australia today welcomed Sri Lanka’s continued cooperation to combat people smuggling following a
recent visit to Sri Lanka by a high-level delegation of immigration and border security officials.
Australia’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, H.E Robyn Mudie, said the visit on 22 to 23 November was a
demonstration of the breadth and depth of Australia’s cooperation with Sri Lanka.
“The visit highlighted Australia’s commitment to combating the dangerous trade of people smuggling” the
High Commissioner said.
The Australian delegation was led by Peter Vardos, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration and
Citizenship, and included senior representatives from the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service,
Australian Federal Police, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Attorney-General’s Department.
During the visit Mr Vardos highlighted recent statements by Australia’s Minister for Immigration and
Citizenship, the Hon Chris Bowen, that people arriving by boat are subject to the “no advantage” principle
which could include being transferred offshore for processing or remaining in detention. “People who arrive
in Australia by boat will have no work rights while they await their claims to be processed. They will not be
able to earn money” he said.
Mr Vardos warned those contemplating the dangerous journey to Australia by boat: “People smugglers are
lying to you. Don’t waste your money, don’t risk your life. There is no visa on arrival. There will be no
special treatment, no speedy outcome and certainly no advantage given to those who come by boat”.
Mr Vardos noted the commencement of transfers to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea with the first
transfer on 21 November comprising of family groups who had arrived in Australia by boat. “Australia will
continue to regularly transfer people who arrive by boat to Manus Island and the Pacific island nation of
Nauru and will continue to return people where they do not engage Australia’s international obligations” he
During the visit, the delegation met senior Sri Lankan officials including the Navy Commander, Vice
Admiral Jayanath Colombage, Inspector General of Police, N. K. Illangakoon, Secretary to the Ministry of
External Affairs, Mr Karunatilaka Amunugama, Solicitor General, Mr Wijetilleke, and Ministry of Defence
Discussions focused on joint cooperation between Australia and Sri Lanka to combat people smuggling and
steps to be taken to strengthen that cooperation, while also acknowledging the important contributions of Sri
Lankan government agencies involved in combating people smuggling. The two nations’ officials also
discussed preparation for the forthcoming inaugural meeting of a Joint Working Group to address people
smuggling and border security issues.
The delegation also travelled to Trincomalee to meet with Navy officials and to visit an Australian-funded
Displaced Persons Program (DPP) project which is supporting local community cooperatives in the dairy
sector to support livelihood development in Sri Lanka.