SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s navy intercepted a Sri Lankan boat carrying 13 asylum-seekers final month, Minister for Residence Affairs Peter Dutton mentioned on Monday, as Canberra sought to defend the relocation of a Tamil household to a distant detention middle.
Dutton mentioned the vessel – intercepted off the Cocos Islands, a distant Australian territory within the Indian Ocean – was the 13th boat from Sri Lanka trying to journey to Australia to hunt asylum previously 18 months.
“It’s the cause Sri Lanka was the primary nation I visited after the election, to ensure we will hold these boats stopped,” Dutton informed the Courier-Mail newspaper. Australia’s conservative authorities was re-elected in Might.
“This menace could be very actual,” he mentioned.
Beneath Canberra’s hardline immigration coverage, would-be asylum-seekers intercepted at sea whereas attempting to achieve Australia are returned to the boat’s nation of origin.
Asylum-seekers who attain Australia are despatched to Australian-run detention camps in Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific island of Nauru, the place they’re held in circumstances broadly criticized by organizations such because the United Nations.
Nevertheless, critics accuse the Australian authorities of searching for to sway public opinion following the relocation of a Tamil asylum-seeker household to Christmas Island on Saturday.
“The federal government wouldn’t discuss it however when it’s handy, you get this,” Joel Fitzgibbon, an opposition Labor lawmaker, informed Channel 9 tv.
1000’s of individuals throughout Australia protested on the weekend in opposition to the choice however Prime Minister Scott Morrison mentioned on Monday permitting the Tamil household to remain would encourage additional makes an attempt by asylum-seekers.
A detention middle on Christmas Island – some 1,550 km (960 miles) northwest of the mainland – was reopened earlier this yr after it lay idle for 10 years.
Identified solely by their first names, Priya and Nadesalingam arrived in Australia individually as asylum-seekers in 2012 and 2013, earlier than Canberra started holding asylum-seekers offshore.
The couple had two daughters, now aged four and a couple of, after marrying and settling in a small city in Australia’s northeast.
Regardless of the protests, Dutton mentioned the household is not going to be allowed to remain after their functions for asylum have been refused.
Reporting by Colin Packham; Modifying by Paul Tait