Aug 06, Colombo: An Australian Border Force (ABF) vessel for the first time has brought back 46 Sri Lankans who attempted to migrate to Australia illegally, and disembarked at the Port of Colombo Friday (Aug 05).
These illegal migrants were taken into custody by the ABF while attempting to enter Australia illegally via sea by boats.
They were disembarked from the Australian ABF patrol vessel ‘Ocean Shield’ and handed over to the Sri Lankan authorities in keeping with the healthcare procedures to contain the spread of COVID 19 followed by preliminary health checkups, the Ministry of Defense said.
Recalling the long-standing close cooperation between the two countries, the ABF Regional Director for South Asia, Commander Chris Waters said they have repatriated 183 individuals from Australia following six unsuccessful illegal maritime crossings, since May this year (2022).
“No policy changes in Australian side in relation to unauthorized maritime people smuggling with the change of Government,” he also stressed.
Commander Western Naval Area of the Sri Lankan Navy (SLN), Rear Admiral Dhammika Kumara highlighting the consequences of the futile illegal migration attempts due to maritime patrols of SLN, Sri Lanka Coast Guard and ABF stressed “Not to fall prey into the hand of such illegal racketeers.”
It is the first occasion that repatriation was conducted by an Australian ABF ship. The ABF vessel ‘Ocean Shield’ is one of Australia’s offshore vessels that conduct far-reaching patrols and responds to illegal activities including people smuggling.
High Commissioner Designate of Australia to Sri Lanka, Paul Stephens, officials of the Australian High Commission, SLN and ABF were present at the occasion.
This group of illegal immigrants had made their voyage in a multiday fishing trawler from Valaichchenai, Batticaloa in early last month.
The ABF officials handed over the repatriated group of illegal immigrants to the Immigration and Emigration Department officials at Colombo Port, through the Sri Lanka Navy.