Emily Howie’s digest of recent Australian action on asylum seekers

Emily Howie in email circular

BOB CARRForeign Minister announces 4 point plan to combat people smuggling in Sri Lanka
Statement by Australia’s Foreign Minister, Bob Carr
17 December 2012
Australia’s Foreign Minister announces a four point plan to combat people smuggling, including intelligence sharing, naval cooperation, public awareness and aid, which are designed to reduce people smuggling by “destroying the people smuggling business model.” “There is a message from these talks to people in Sri Lanka – by getting on that boat you risk your life, you’ll lose your money and you will be sent back home,” Senator Carr said. The plan includes provision of additional surveillance and electronic equipment to Sri Lanka, a joint training program to develop Sri Lanka’s intelligence expertise, $700,000 for advertising campaigns warning against travelling by boat, resources and training to expand Sri Lanka’s on water disruption activities and an aid program to ‘reduce demand’ for people smugglers’ business.Inaugural meeting of Joint Working Group on People Smuggling and Transnational Crime
Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence
17 December 2012
During the visit of Australia’s Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, a meeting is held for the purpose of “further boosting maritime security in the region in order to find ways and means of containing illegal migration attempts to Australia from the Island.” The meeting was attended by ministers and high level officials from the Sri Lankan and Australian governments. Australia’s Foreign Minister and Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary sat down for a “separate special meeting” on the sidelines of the conference.

Australia assures Sri Lanka of its support for CHOGM
Daily Mirror
17 December 2012
Australia’s Foreign Minister said that Australia will be at CHOGM next year. In relation to Canadian pressure not to attend the summit in Sri Lanka, Senator Carr said that Canada needed to engage with Sri Lanka on issues of human right: “There needs to be engagement with Sri Lanka by way of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commissions (LLRC) report to resolve any issues it may have with regards to human rights. As far as engagement with Sri Lanka is concerned the LLRC is the best instrument.”

Sri Lankan boat arrivals to be returned within 72 hours
ABC Radio
17 December 2012
Australia’s Foreign Minister states that it is necessary to introduce tough countermeasures, including forced returns, in order to break the human smuggling business model. The message must be that if you pay a people smuggler you will not get in to Australia. Bob Carr: “You’re going to be brought back here within 72 hours. And even if you were to get to Australia, you wouldn’t be able to, you wouldn’t be able to work.”

Australia positive about Sri Lanka’s progress on LLRC
The Island
18 December 2012
Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister, GL Peiris, says that Australia responded positively to the steps taken by the Sri Lankan government to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission.

Human smuggling linked to arms trade, human slavery and terrorism
The Daily News
18 December 2012
Australian Foreign Minister discusses human smuggling in criminal and law enforcement terms: “Human smuggling is linked to terrorism, illegal arms trade and human slavery. We are going to wreck the human smuggling business.”

Australia and Sri Lanka expand intelligence swap raising rights concerns
The Australian
18 December 2012
(see also PDF attached)
During Bob Carr’s visit an expanded law enforcement cooperation was announced. “Government sources said last night the focus would be on providing more information to the Sri Lankan government about people-smugglers – rather than their clients – and to boost the ability of local authorities to disrupt ventures. Much of the information Australian security agencies gather about Sri Lankan people-smuggling syndicates derives from Sri Lankan boatpeople on Christmas Island. It was not clear how much of that information would now be shared with Colombo.”

Reports that boat numbers are shrinking, message getting through
Colombo Page
18 December 2012
Australian Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, states that 13 days passed without a boat from Sri Lanka. “According to reports, only 43 people arrived by boat from Sri Lanka in December, compared to 1,228 in November and 1,240 in October.”

Australia cuts aid budget to pay for refugee costs at home
The Age
18 December 2012
“As the government struggles to meet the spiralling costs of its border protection policies while returning the budget to surplus next year, it has deferred or cut other foreign aid projects to provide $375 million until June to provide basic services for refugee applicants in Australia.” This characterisation is refuted  by the Foreign Minister, who says that spending on refugees in Australia is properly characterised as aid spending.

Sri Lankan migrants of key significance in Australian election year
The Australian
19 December 2012
This is a feature piece that provides a political background to Bob Carr’s visit to Australia and a sense of how the Sri Lankan migration surge in 2012 took the Australian government by surprise. The response by the Australians is highly strategic as it goes in to the election year. “IT may not be a formal military campaign, but the Gillard government’s quest to stop the relentless flow of boats from Sri Lanka is a battle that is being plotted in Napoleonic detail in Canberra.”

ALSO SEE https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=gmail&attid=0.1&thid=13bb2578c30233bc&mt=application/pdf&url=https://mail.google.com/mail/?ui%3D2%26ik%3D0b96390345%26view%3Datt%26th%3D13bb2578c30233bc%26attid%3D0.1%26disp%3Dsafe%26realattid%3Df_haw7uyzk0%26zw&sig=AHIEtbTdCyUL1Vy75-1qOMnsetV30igf5w

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