Australia turns back three asylum-seeker boats
09 May 2016, 11:22
Sydney – Australia has intercepted three asylum-seeker boats so
far this year, including one carrying women and children from Sri Lanka, the
country's immigration minister revealed on Monday.
Under Canberra's hardline measures, asylum-seekers trying to reach
Australia by boat are either sent back to where they departed or to remote
Pacific island camps, where living conditions have been criticised.
The government has defended the policy as stopping deaths at sea.
Since the start of its "Operation Sovereign Borders" in
September 2013, it has managed to halt the flood of boats, and drownings, that
characterised previous Labour administrations.
In March, Canberra hailed 600 days with no vessels arriving, with
25 boats carrying 698 people turned back and "safely returned to their
country of departure".
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said three boats had been
intercepted this year, including a small wooden fishing vessel from Sri Lanka
"I can advise that there were 12 people on that vessel,"
"And the vessel had departed from Sri Lanka and we were able
to successfully return those 12 people, which included men, women and children,
back safely to Sri Lanka on May 6.
"Now, that brings to three the number of vessels that have
sought to arrive and have been turned back, people returned back to their
country of origin, in this calendar year."
He gave no details on the other two boats.
The vessel from Sri Lanka came within 500m of Australia's
thinly-populated Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean on Monday last week,
according to reports.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said that after being
spotted, those on board were transferred from a customs ship to a smaller boat,
which took them ashore.
They were flown back to Colombo on a charter flight in a secretive
operation under the cover of darkness on Thursday, the broadcaster said, citing
witnesses who claimed there were seven children, including babies, among them.
Dutton reiterated that no boatpeople, even if found to be genuine
refugees, would ever be settled in Australia.
"Please don't accept the word of con agents that are
masquerading as these people-smugglers, that if you pay your money will you
come to Australia. You will not," he said.