A boat with would-be asylum seekers was stopped in the Batticaloa seas while it was heading to Australia, Navy spokesman Kosala Warnakulasuriya said.
The Navy said that at least 116 people were believed to have been on the boat at the time it was spotted early this morning.
Under new rules announced on July 19, anyone – including a person from Sri Lanka – who arrives in Australia by boat without a visa no longer has the chance to settle in Australia.
“If they are not quickly returned to Colombo, they will be taken to Papua New Guinea where their claims will be assessed,” the Australian government said.
The prime ministers of Australia and Papua New Guinea signed the new agreement, meaning all people arriving by boat without a visa from July 19 will be sent to Papua New Guinea, where their claims will be assessed.
If people are found to be refugees, they will be permanently settled in Papua New Guinea – not Australia.
“The message this agreement sends is clear: the dangerous boat journey is not worth it and you will never settle in Australia,” the Australian government said. “Accommodation is being expanded on Manus Island and there is no cap on the number of people who can be transferred there.”
Almost 1300 Sri Lankans have been sent home since August 2012 – nearly 1100 of them involuntarily.
“These arrangements will continue and if they do not have proper asylum claims, people will be quickly returned to Sri Lanka,” the Australian government said. “This is making it clear that those who pay smugglers are throwing their money away and risking their lives in the process.” (Colombo Gazette)