A Federal Liberal MP says the decision by 18 Sri Lankan asylum seekers to return home shows they were not genuine refugees, but had instead attempted to take advantage of Australia’s “soft laws”. The men left Christmas Island for Colombo after asking to be sent home instead of going to Nauru for the processing of their asylum seeker claims.Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has said their refusal to be transferred to Nauru was an important step in deterring people smuggling.
But Liberal MP Steve Ciobo this morning questioned the motives of the men in seeking asylum in Australia in the first place.”What this is a sign of is that a lot of asylum seekers that are coming to this country are not genuine refugees,” he told Sky News.
“They’re people… who are trying to take advantage of Labor’s soft laws.”The Opposition yesterday questioned the motives of 5000 Sri Lankan asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia, as new figures show boat arrivals from the country have overtaken those from war-torn Afghanistan.Opposition Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the decision of the men to return to Sri Lanka “calls into question” the processing of every application since the country’s 25-year civil war ended in 2009.”As asylum seekers, I assume that they were seeking to flee from persecution,” Ms Bishop told the ABC.
She questioned why the group would therefore choose to return home, rather than go to the “safe haven” of Nauru.The number of Sri Lankans arriving has soared this year to 3536, up from just 211 arrivals last year, and exceeding the 2996 Afghani arrivals.It’s the biggest number of arrivals ever recorded by Sri Lankans, including during the years in which a violent civil war killed more than 70,000 people and hugely damaged the economy.
Government figures show just 163 Sri Lankans arriving by boat have been granted humanitarian visas this year, but it is understood many of the arrivals are still being assessed.It follows Opposition suggestions earlier this month the Government strike a deal with Sri Lanka to send asylum seekers intercepted at sea back to their home country “before they set foot on Australian soil” as most were economic refugees. The Government said such a move would break international responsibilities. Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Nick Riemer said the civil war may be officially over, but conditions for Tamils were still “very dire”.
“There are reports of disappearances … there are reports of torture by the Sri Lankan authorities,” he said.”The fact that there are 16 people who have consented, or who have been pressured, into returning doesn’t tell us anything about the overall situation of all of the other Sri Lankans who are still in the Australian system, who are still coming here, and who are still evidently desperate to get out of the country.”