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* Returning asylum seekers to Sri Lanka effective, Australian minister says
Wed, Jan 30, 2013, 10:10 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Jan 30, Colombo: Returning Sri Lankan asylum seekers back home has been effective in reducing the number of boat people coming from the island nation, Australia's Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has said.

Speaking to Australian media, the Minister has said the government took the tough decision to return the boat people who were not refugees.

"We took the tough decision to return people to Sri Lanka when they're not refugees," Mr. Bowen has said.

"We have returned around 700 people involuntarily to Sri Lanka, and we have seen the number of people coming from Sri Lanka fall to a trickle," Mr. Bowen has told Sky News on Wednesday.

Australia has returned 942 Sri Lankans home - both voluntarily and involuntarily - since August 13 when the Australian government decided to send asylum seekers arriving in boats to offshore regional processing facilities in Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

Following the enforcement of the new law, 213 Sri Lankans have returned home voluntarily. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship says it is further proof that there is no advantage engaging with people smugglers to migrate to Australia.

The Australian Minister has said that only three Sri Lankans had come to Australia by boat this month.

Most of the boat people arrived this month was from Afghanistan and Iran and some from Iraq, Mr. Bowen has said.

The Minister has however acknowledged that the number of arrivals was typically lower in January due to rough weather.



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