During the past three years the Sri Lanka Navy has intercepted 4145 would-be illegal immigrants to Australia. It has also arrested a couple of hundred people onshore, just before embarkation, the ‘Australian’ newspaper reported today.
That is nearly 4500 people who would otherwise have headed for Australia. Some hundreds would have drowned. As a result of these efforts, the numbers of those attempting to sail to Australia have fallen drastically.
“People believe that in Australia they’ll get a job and earn 10 times more than they would in Sri Lanka. Once one person is in Australia, they believe, he can bring out the family. There are positive role models for them, people who’ve made the boat journey and send back $1500 a month to their family in Sri Lanka,” Navy Chief Vice Admiral Jayanath Colombage told the newspaper.
Colombage offers the maximum encouragement to Australia to take a hard line, to make sure that people who travel illegally by boat do not have the prospect of permanent settlement in Australia.
His assessment that remaining LTTE networks are involved in people-smuggling is controversial but makes sense. The Tigers were comprehensively defeated within Sri Lanka militarily. Their separatist dream is over, so is their extraordinarily vicious terrorism. Tamils within Sri Lanka have all sorts of discontents but they want to get ahead within the Sri Lankan nation. But the vast Tiger support networks in the Tamil diaspora, some consciously pro-terrorist, others foolishly sentimental, are still in place.
Colombage believes the people-smuggling business suits the Tiger support networks in vital ways. It raises a lot of money. It helps continue to blacken Sri Lanka’s name, as to get refugee status illegal arrivals must tell a tale of persecution. And it helps implant in key Western societies, such as Australia, a community that will ultimately be a pro-Tamil separatist vote bank.