Australia to Face More Asylum Seeker Boats as People Smugglers Remain Active

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Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were sent back by Australia wait to enter a magistrate's court in Galle
Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were sent back by Australia cover their faces as they wait to enter a magistrate's court in the southern port district of Galle July 8, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

A regional expert on terrorism has warned Australia that people smugglers were planning to send more asylum seekers from India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka by boat. Reports said the Abbott government may have disrupted the flow of boats attempting to Australia but this did not deter organised criminal networks to continue moving people.

According to Professor Rohan Gunaratna, head of Nanyang Technological University's International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore, said people smugglers are still "active" in the Asian region.

He told Fairfax Media that people-smuggling operations continue in Southeast Asia especially in Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand. The professor warned the asylum seeker boats travel from Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia to Australia.

According to reports, two men were arrested in Malaysia last week for terrorism and immigration offences. The men were believed to have connections in Australia. Somalingam Puvaneswaran,a 31-year  old Tamil and Singarajah Edman, 37, were arrested in Kuala Lumpur on July 3. The two remains in the custody of the Malaysian police. The Tamil community has expressed their concern for the safety of the men if they will be sent back to Sri Lanka.

Gunaratna believes the Abbott government's tough border protection policy has been "effective" in reducing the number of boat arrivals. He said Australian authorities have a "significant understanding" of the people-smuggling industry.

Australia has been accused of breaking the international laws after authorities returned a group of asylum seekers to Sri Lanka. About group of 41 Sri Lankan asylum seekers had attempted to reach Australia by boat but did not succeed as they were intercepted and handed over the Sri Lankan navy.

Reports said the United Nations was "deeply concerned" about the events that happened on July 6 off the coast of Sri Lanka. The turning back of asylum seeker boats was part of the Australian government's campaign against asylum seekers who attempt to land by boat.

However, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has denied claims that Sri Lankan asylum seekers were mistreated. He said the Australian government did not break international laws when it returned 41 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka amid UN concern.

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