Top Australian Minister visits Colombo

The Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Brendan O’Connor will travel to Colombo this week as part of the Gillard Government’s continuing commitment to deepening Australia’s relationship with Sri Lanka, the Australian High Commission in Colombo said.

The Minister will meet with senior government ministers and agency officials to discuss ongoing cooperation in enhancing migration management.

The Minister will also seek to strengthen ongoing cooperation with Sri Lanka on the shared challenges of irregular migration and people smuggling.

O’Connor said the visit would highlight Australia’s keen interest in continuing to work closely with Sri Lanka on issues discussed at the recent Bali Process meeting.

“Sri Lanka is an important regional partner, and I hope my visit will work to reinforce our already strong working relationship on a range of migration issues,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Of the many issues that will be discussed, I particularly want to convey Australia’s appreciation for Sri Lanka’s continued cooperation in the return of Sri Lankan nationals who are found not to be owed protection in Australia.”

Another group of 42 Sri Lankan irregular maritime arrivals were flown home from Christmas Island to Colombo today, taking the number of Sri Lankans returned home since August 13 last year to 1,071– 862 of them involuntarily.

The Minister will travel with Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) secretary Martin Bowles, who co-chaired the inaugural meeting of the Sri Lanka- Australia Joint Working Group on People Smuggling and Transnational Crime in December last year.

The Gillard Government funds a range of activities to assist Sri Lanka to improve border management practices.

The Minister will also be briefed on the status of the Gillard Government-funded Displaced Persons Program (DPP) projects that are designed to support people’s livelihoods and future prospects in Sri Lanka. (Colombo Gazette)