Sri Lanka will welcome asylum seeker boats turned around by Australian authorities, the country’s high commissioner to Australia says.
According to The Australian newspaper, Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe was commenting on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s pledge to reinstate the Howard-era policy of towing back asylum seeker vessels.
“Any Sri Lankan asylum boat being brought by the Australian navy to our waters we will welcome, and we’ll take over them at appropriate locations,” he told ABC television last night.
“These are very simple matters to deal (with) and this can be handled at any time, provided the safety of the people in these not very seaworthy boats are assured.”
The Australian newspaper reported that Admiral Samarasinghe had said he expected the 66 suspected asylum seekers, who on Tuesday arrived on a fishing vessel at the busy West Australian port of Geraldton, to be sent back to Sri Lanka.
He denied there were widespread cases of human rights abuse in Sri Lanka and insisted people were leaving the country by boat for economic reasons.
“They need not come to Australia if they fear for their life,” he said.
“There is much closer destinations if they have to (leave).”