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* Sri Lankan official expects number of Tamil boat immigrants to Australia to fall
Mon, Apr 12, 2010, 09:16 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Apr 12, Colombo: The number of illegal Tamil immigrants fleeing to Australia by boat is likely to fall now after the Australian government's suspension of the processing of new asylum applications from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, a Sri Lankan diplomat said.

Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dr. Palitha Kohona has told Australian daily 'The Age' the number of Tamil refugees seeking asylum in Australia will fall dramatically because of the tougher stance imposed by the Australian government.

''This will have an impact on prospective asylum seekers. I'm reasonably confident that the number of asylum seekers will now be reduced dramatically. They might now head off to somewhere else,'' The Age quoted the Ambassador.

Australian government says Sri Lanka is evolving after nearly three decades of conflict and there is hope for further improvement and stabilization in conditions.

Considering the improving conditions in Sri Lanka, the Australian government has suspended processing asylum applications for three months. The government believes the asylum seekers should be granted asylum status only if they are genuinely in need of protection.

Dr. Kohona has said that the conditions in the North had improved tremendously and most of the asylum seekers are not genuine refugees.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR is reviewing the country conditions in Sri Lanka and related guidelines for refugee status determination. The Australian government says it will seek UNHCR's advice to make decisions on refugees' status.

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