THE AUSTRALIAN, 11 DECEMBER 2012: FOREIGN Minister Bob Carr will travel to Sri Lanka on Friday to discuss trade ties, tourism and efforts to disrupt people smuggling. The three-day trip will be Senator Carr’s first visit to the south Asian nation as a minister and will include discussions on Australia’s aid assistance to Sri Lanka, a spokesman for the minister told AAP on Tuesday. People smuggling will also be on the agenda. Sri Lankan authorities have in the past 12 months disrupted 69 people smuggling operations involving 2900 people who were intending to come to Australia, the spokesman said. Meanwhile, HMAS Larrakia intercepted a boat carrying 57 suspected asylum seekers and two crew on Monday night, north of Ashmore Islands.
The opposition’s immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said asylum seeker boats were continuing to arrive in record numbers “even with the onset of the monsoon season where conditions are perilous and the risk of taking boat journeys to Australia intensifies”. Later on Tuesday, Senator Carr’s office announced he would visit Timor Leste on Thursday ahead of the Sri Lankan trip. Economic, aid and security issues are on the agenda when he meets East Timor leaders. The visit coincides with the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF) ceasing security operations and commencing withdrawal from East Timor last month. “The withdrawal marks a new era in Australia-Timor-Leste relations with the transfer of security responsibilities to local forces,” Senator Carr said in a statement.
“Discussions would also involve future plans for development assistance, with an emphasis on Australia’s continued support for education and health.” He will visit the Resistance Museum and present a gift from Australia – material about East Timor held by the National Film and Sound Archive.
“Bob Carr’s Colombo trip aims to stop boats at the source,”
Cameron Stewart & Paul Maley, in The Australian, 12 December 2012
THE unprecedented surge in asylum-seekers from Sri Lanka has prompted Foreign Minister Bob Carr to lead a high-level delegation to Colombo next week to plot joint action to stop the boats. Sri Lankans are arriving in Australia in record numbers: more than 3500 have come by boat in the past three months, dwarfing arrivals from other countries. The bid to tackle people-smuggling at its source coincides with a tougher approach taken by Canberra towards Sri Lankans who arrive in Australia. More than 600 have been forcibly returned to their homeland since September as a result of tougher screening procedures criticised by refugee advocates.
It also comes as Australia is expected to sign an agreement with Indonesia today that will boost co-operation in search-and-rescue operations. The agreement, discussed earlier in the year in the wake of a series of drownings, is also expected to give Australian aircraft rapid clearance to enter Indonesian airspace.
The Australian understands Senator Carr will travel to Sri Lanka for meetings early next week and will be accompanied by Department of Foreign Affairs secretary Peter Varghese, Immigration Department acting secretary Martin Bowles and other Immigration and Customs officials. The delegation will meet Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and senior officials. Sources familiar with the visit said the meetings would focus on people-smuggling and border security measures. One source said the aim would be to enshrine and formalise a mechanism for greater co-operation on people-smuggling. However, it is not expected the visit will culminate in the signing of a major agreement. It is understood Senator Carr will also visit India as part of the trip.
The meeting is expected to discuss an information campaign within Sri Lanka to try to deter people from taking boats to Australia, including better publicising the fact that 600 have been forcibly returned in recent months. Officials are also likely to discuss the Sri Lankan navy’s policy of turning the boats around before they leave Sri Lankan waters. That country’s navy has prevented numerous boats from leaving Sri Lanka so far this year. Australian officials will seek reassurance from Sri Lanka that those people who are returned to that country do not face persecution beyond the fact that they have broken the law by leaving that country illegally.
The visit comes just six weeks before a delegation of senior Coalition figures is due to visit Sri Lanka in what is expected to be the first stage in a comprehensive agreement the opposition hopes to forge with Colombo, should it win government, to turn back asylum boats at sea. The Coalition has criticised the government for not working more closely with Sri Lanka The government has toughened its screening procedures in recent months, leading to the return of Sri Lankans it says took the voyage for economic reasons rather than because they were genuine refugees in need of protection. It has found a large proportion of arrivals from Sri Lanka are Sinhalese, rather than the Tamil minority that lost the country’s civil war.
“Australian FM in Colombo to halt people smuggling as Sri Lanka gets A$ 34 million in educational aid,” Zacky Jabbar, in Sunday Island, 16 December 2012, at http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=68424
The Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said in Colombo yesterday that his government was determined to stop the people smuggling racket at its source, which has seen around 6,000 Sri Lankans trying to enter Australia this year. Carr was speaking at a ceremony at St Anthony’s Balika Maha Vidyalaya in Colombo 3, during which he also announced that his government will be providing Sri Lanka with educational aid totaling A$ 34 million spread over a five year period. The Australian Foreign Minister, who was also scheduled to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his four day visit, which concludes tomorrow, said that the talks will cover people smuggling, educational aid, economic development and human rights.
Sri Lanka and Australia have decided to establish a Joint Working Group (JWG) on People Smuggling and Transnational Crime, he noted.Carr and his Sri Lankan counterpart G. L. Peiris are scheduled to inaugurate the JWG today, which will include Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Australia’s Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Martin Bowles. He said that a publicity campaign had also been launched to highlight the numbers who have been deported and the futility of the dangerous sea voyages which had proved unsuccessful due to the stringent security measures that had been adopted by both sides.
Informed sources said that the visiting Australian delegation was likely to seek assurances from the Sri Lankan government that the people who are returned, which include more Sinhalese than Tamils, are dealt with only for the offence of leaving the country illegally.
Australia provides $47 million a year in aid to Sri Lanka with a focus on education and the rebuilding of economic infrastructure. Past aid contributions include clearing of unexploded ordnance and land mines, rebuilding of homes and schools and delivery of water and sanitation to nearly 44,000 people. Carr is also scheduled to travel to the Southern Province to observe several Australian aided development projects.
Jose Alvarez, Australia’s Immigration Regional Director told The Sunday Island that regardless of whether former LTTE cadres or economic refugees seek illegal entry into Australia, they are all scrutinized for any criminal records. He said that his government had a no-nonsense approach to illegal immigrants and they are deported no sooner they had arrived at their favourite places such as Christmas and Cocos Islands. Asked if there was a special procedure to prevent the infiltration of LTTE cadres into Australia, Alvarez said that it did not differ from how the economic refugees were tackled. “It does not matter who the individual is. It could be a former LTTE cadre or an illegal economic refugee. Our advanced detection systems will nab them and search for all past criminal records”, he noted.
Asked what sort of monies were paid by the boat people, he said it ranged between several lakhs to over a million Sri Lankan rupees. But, it was all in vain because they are invariably caught and sent to either Nauru or Manus Islands in Papua New Guinea, where they could spend long periods before being deported home.
Australia will not take people who do not engage in international obligations. They will be sent back on the first available flight. There was no money nor reintegration assistance for those sent home involuntarily. Lies and false promises were being told about what awaits people who are smuggled into Australia, he said. “My government is committed to preventing people from taking the dangerous boat journeys. Part of that commitment includes the reinstatement of offshore processing”, he noted.
Peter Vardos, Deputy Secretary, Immigration and Citizenship said that since the beginning of this year, around six thousand Sri Lankans had been duped into parting with large sums of monies with the promise of illegal entry and employment in Australia. The masterminds behind the operation, he said, were mainly based in various parts of Asia and his government was talking with many countries with a view to busting the racket, which has left people not only losing their hard-earned monies but also dead at sea. Vardos said that Australia was determined to implement the recommendations of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, break the people smuggling trade, stop the flow of boats and prevent people from risking their lives by undertaking a very dangerous journey
ALSO SEE “A Flourishing Bibliographical Tree: Tamil Migration, Asylum-Seekers and Australia,” 30 July 2012, http://thuppahis.com/2012/07/30/a-flourishing-bibliographical-tree-tamil-migration-asylum-seekers-and-australia/#more-6461
AND “Captured-Tamil-Federal-government-kidding-on-asylum-activities,” in U-TUBE Documentary, http://myapologetics.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/httpvideo-theaustralian-com-au2261808685captured-tamil-federal-government-kidding-on-asylum-acti/
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