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* Australia will abide by its international obligations over Sri Lankan asylum seekers - Australian Minister
Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 08:20 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

July 05, Colombo: Amid the international criticism of the way the Australian government is dealing with the asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boats, Australia says it will abide by its international obligations.

Australia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop said as one of the longest standing democracies Australia has a very inclusive immigration policy and the Australian Government is not only cognizant of its international obligations but abides by them.

Responding to the international criticism by the UNHCR and the human rights organizations for the way Australia has handled a boatload of Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers, Ms. Bishop said the Australian government was elected to ensure that the previous government's policies on border protection, which resulted in thousands of deaths of asylum seekers in the sea, were not continued.

"The Abbott Government does not want to see, under our watch, men and women and children dying at sea," Ms. Bishop told ABC News Radio, Drive Program on Friday.

The Minister, who was on a visit to Myanmar, said the Australian government has promised the Australian public that the government would stop people funding people smuggling trades on unseaworthy boats and coming to Australia.

"So our responsibility is to ensure that people do not pay criminal people smuggling trades money to get on unseaworthy boats and put their lives at risk," Minister Bishop said.

When asked about the concerns that the Tamil asylum seekers are being handed back to the country that they are fleeing from and that they will face persecution back in Sri Lanka, the Minister said she is confident that the government is aware of its international obligations and will abide by them. "As a matter of principle the Australian Government is aware of its international obligations and will abide by them," she said.

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