Sept 22, Colombo: Australia today has sent 18 Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were detained in the Christmas Islands and refused to be transferred to the detention centers in Nauru back to Sri Lanka.
The Australian officials have sent the 18 adult men who volunteered to return rather than be sent to Nauru for processing on a charter flight this morning, Australian media reported.
Two of the men had arrived in Australia before the Australian government introduced the tough new policy in August to deter asylum-seekers by sending them to small Pacific islands of Nauru and Papua New Guinea for processing.
Under the new policy the migrants would have to endure long waits in the detention centers before they could obtain a legitimate visa.
The boats arriving in Australia had not been deterred by the measure, the critics of the new policy say.
However, today's voluntary return of the Sri Lankans has been a positive boost for the Australian government policy.
"Both the Nauru transfers and this group of adult Sri Lankan men choosing to return home provide further evidence that the people smugglers are selling lies and misleading asylum seekers about the situation they will face if they reach Australia by boat," the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, has been quoted by the Australian newspapers .
Sri Lanka Navy, which has arrested over 1,500 people migrating illegally to Australia so far this year, had urged the Australian officials to deport the growing number of asylum seekers reaching Australia by boat saying it was the best way to deter people smugglers.
Cautioning the asylum seekers that if they come to Australia by boat they would risk their lives and throw their money away, the Minister has announced that family reunion concessions for people who arrive by boat will be removed from Australia's Special Humanitarian Program.
Under the measure people who arrive in Australia by boat will not be able to sponsor family members under the humanitarian program.