July 26, Colombo: Sri Lanka's External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris had bilateral discussions on illegal immigration in the context or regional security with his News Zealand counterpart Murray McCully recently, an External Affairs Ministry statement said.
Minister Peiris met the New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister on the sidelines of the 18th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) held in Bali, Indonesia on July 23.
The Minister also discussed the illegal immigration of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees to Canada and Australia with the Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird and Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.
Recently New Zealand denied entry to the vessel "Alice", loaded with about 85 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees seeking asylum in the country. The vessel was apprehended by the Indonesian authorities in their waters.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said his country would not accept the asylum seekers refusing to reward "people who are putting others' lives at risk" and adding that there was no guarantee the Sri Lankans were refugees.
Prof. Peiris has discussed with the foreign ministers in Bali the continuing problem posed by illegal immigrants and the implications of two ship loads of Sri Lankan refugees arrived in Canada on previous occasions and the matters connected with the vessel "Ocean Viking" which had reached the shores of Australia.
Minister Peiris, citing recent observations by representatives of some Western governments and the UNHCR, has emphasized that asylum seekers on board these vessels had no legitimate claim and that they are merely economic refugees.
The issue of illicit migration, together with its repercussions on regional security and law and order aspects, received a sharp focus in the discussions of Foreign Ministers at the Bali Conference, the External Affairs Ministry said.
Prof. Peiris has previously discussed with his counterpart in Thailand, the elements of an overall strategy to deal with the illegal immigration issues, the External Affairs Ministry said adding that upon his return from Thailand, the Minister has convened a meeting at the Ministry with the High Commissioners of Australia, Canada and Malaysia, and the Ambassadors of Indonesia and Thailand, to decide on a series of measures to be adopted to curb the illegal immigration.