The Australian government has defended its “enhanced screening process” that resulted in 38 asylum seekers being sent back to Sri Lanka within nine days of landing in Western Australia, the Australian Associated Press reported.
They were among a group of 66 who arrived by boat in the port of Geraldton, hoping to go on to New Zealand.
“The enhanced screening process is both rigorous and robust,” federal Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor said on Monday.
He dismissed concerns from human rights advocates who claim the Sri Lankans were denied legal assistance.
“Lawyers will always argue for greater levels of litigation.”
Australia, which is struggling to deter boats carrying asylum seekers making perilous voyages from Asia, has repatriated hundreds of Sri Lankans not qualifying for refugee status.
About 250 boats with more than 14,000 people on board have arrived since the Australian government reintroduced offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island in August 2012.