Dec 17, Colombo: Australia today announced a four-point plan and AU$ 45 million aid over the next five years to assist Sri Lanka to boost the fight against people smuggling on boats from the island nation to Australia across the seas.
The visiting Australian Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr today announced the plan which is to be discussed with Sri Lankan government and naval authorities and included increased on-water co-operation, intelligence sharing and reducing incentives for smuggling ventures.
Senator Carr is in Colombo to inaugurate the Australia-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on People Smuggling and Transnational Crime, chaired by Sri Lanka's Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
In a media release the Foreign Minister said Australia is setting a clear agenda with the four-point plan- for information and intelligence sharing, on-water disruption by Sri Lankan Navy, sending the message to the smugglers and reducing demand by helping to rebuild Sri Lanka - all designed to curb people smuggling.
"There is a message from these talks to people in Sri Lanka - by getting on that boat you risk your life, you'll lose your money and you will be sent back home," Senator Carr said.
Under the four-point plan announced today, Australia will provide Sri Lanka with additional surveillance and electronic equipment to expand the island's capacity to target smuggling operations and better identify vessel departure times and locations.
Also from next year, a joint Australia- Sri Lanka training program will be held in Australia to enhance Sri Lankan intelligence expertise.
Australia will assist to strengthen the Sri Lankan navy's on-water disruption capacity including through talks to identify materiel and equipment constraints and supply the island nation's Navy with search and rescue equipment to help recovery of passengers from intercepted and unseaworthy vessels.
Also, Sri Lankan naval officers will receive Australia-based training in maritime air surveillance.
As a measure to educate the would be asylum seekers and prevent them from being smuggled, Australia will grant Sri Lanka AU$700,000 (US$ 742,000) for campaigns in towns and villages in the island identified as people smuggling hot spots and to spread the message by word of mouth, and radio, television and cinema advertising.
As a measure to reduce the demand for smuggling people, the Australian government over the next five years will grant Sri Lanka AU$ 45 million (US$47.7 million) under AUSAID's broader Sri Lanka program to build or rebuild poor and rural communities. The aid is to be used to reducing poverty and help cut demand for economic migration.
Australia said it is already constructing 5,000 housing units and 23 schools in the island.
Senator Carr thanked Sri Lanka for its co-operation against people smuggling, which had seen 65 smuggling ventures involving 2,900 people disrupted this year, and the involuntary return of more than 700 Sri Lankan asylum seekers since August 2012.
"I welcome Sri Lanka's strong support for anti-people smuggling activities, and look forward to increased co-operation in destroying the people smuggling business model," the visiting Minister said.