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* Australian Foreign Minister refuses to comment on Sri Lankan asylum seekers
Thu, Jul 10, 2014, 08:30 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

July 10, Canberra: Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said today her government is determined to stop the people smuggling practice and the policy is not to provide the people smugglers with information that they use to ply their trade.

The Australian FM, in an interview with Chris Uhlmann of the ABC, AM program, refused to divulge the fate of 153 Sri Lankan asylum seekers in a boat saying the matter is before the court.

When asked where the 153 Sri Lankan asylum seekers will be sent to, Bishop said she will not comment on matters that are in the midst of a judicial hearing. "That would be entirely inappropriate," she said.

Bishop refused to go in to details when pressed whether the Australian government had been in discussions with the Governments of Papua New Guinea or Nauru to decide where to send the Sri Lankans if not back to Sri Lanka.

"Any matter that involves the people smuggling trade is subject to the policies of Operation Sovereign Borders under the command of General Campbell and part of the success to date has been not to provide the people smugglers with information that they use to ply their trade," she said.

"This Government was elected to stop the practice of the people smugglers from putting people on unseaworthy boats and sending them on a dangerous journey to Australia. We saw men, women and children drown at sea and die on this journey to Australia and the Australian Government is determined to stop that practice and dismantle the people smuggling trade," she emphasized.

"And they work on information so I don't intend to provide them information that they can use to continue their criminal activities."

When asked whether the asylum seekers be able to access legal representation provided by the High Court by speaking to their lawyers, the Minister said the Australian Government is aware of its obligations under international law.

"We're aware of our obligations and will abide them," she said.

The FM declined to comment on the matter further when sked whether the Australian government intends to keep the asylum seekers at sea until the case is heard.

"It's before the courts, we've given undertakings to the court, we've given information to the court and it would be entirely inappropriate for me to discuss on air matters that are in the middle of a judicial hearing," Bishop said.

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