Tough Border Protection Measures Fail to Deter Sri Lankan Tamil Asylum Seekers, says Report

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By Sunny Peter | December 4, 2013 4:11 PM EST

Tough measures adopted by Australia may have helped the country slash the number of asylum-seekers landing on its shores; however, reports from Sri Lanka indicate that its measures have not succeeded in discouraging people from attempting to make the dangerous journey by boat.

IRIN reports from Sri Lanka, quoting Australia's Customs and Border Protection figures says, in 2013 (till Nov 7) close to 2,000 Sri Lankan asylum seekers made the dreadful journey, to arrive on Australian territories of Christmas Island, Ashmore Reef and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The report says there were nearly 5,000 Sri Lankans in Australian immigration detention facilities on Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Reports suggest that most people are attempting to leave Sri Lanka from its northern parts. Three decades of civil war between Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels has destroyed infrastructure and livelihood in this region. Ethnic tensions continue to remain high and international calls for reconciliations and rehabilitation of the affected Tamils marred the recently held Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo.

Seeking to build closer cooperation with Sri Lanka, Australia took a position diametrically opposed to its traditional allies UK and Canada at the CHOGM, when it praised the Sri Lanka government's efforts to rehabilitate those affected by the conflict.

Applauding Sri Lanka, the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the country had emerged from a brutal civil war and was committed to democratic pluralism based on the rule of law.

''With peace has come more freedom and more prosperity - we are here to praise as much as to judge,'' he said.

"Sri Lanka's willingness to host this Commonwealth shows its commitment to democratic pluralism and freedom based on law and ought to assure all its citizenship that just as today is better than yesterday, tomorrow will be better than today," Mr Abbott told the Summit.

Following Mr Abbott's meeting with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, both countries agreed to expand cooperation between their naval forces in an effort to crack down on the people smuggling trade.

Speaking about the cooperation between both governments in tackling the refugee influx, the Australian High Commission in Sri Lanka told IRIN that the strategy to return refugees and rapid transfers to off-shore processing centres is working well.

However, ground reports from Sri Lanka indicate that people, particularly from the northern parts of the country, continue to undertake the precarious journey undeterred by the heightened border surveillance initiatives of both governments.  

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