Australian opposition wants Lankan boats towed back

The Australian opposition says it wants illegal asylum boats from Sri Lanka to be towed back to the island to help stem the flow of asylum seekers bound for Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison as saying Australia should bolster Sri Lanka’s maritime resources to prevent people from leaving.

”We believe the more effective way to deter [arrivals] here is firstly to support the Sri Lankan government with their interceptions at source whether at sea or land … [and] secondly, in the event that the vessels get towards Australia they should be intercepted outside of our waters and arrangements made for their immediate transfer back to Sri Lanka but into the safe hands of international agencies that are already on the ground in Sri Lanka, particularly the UNHCR and IOM.”

Morrison said a Coalition government would boost Sri Lanka’s naval resources, ”just like we would do where requested or where supported in Indonesia as well”.

He said the Coalition’s tow-back policy, in which asylum boats would be returned to Indonesia where safe to do so, had been mocked by the government because Indonesia was unwilling to participate.

”But the difference is, the Sri Lankan government has expressed a keen interest in this and we would be very interested in supporting them … because it’s much more safer to ensure that interception closer to Sri Lankan territory than Australia.”