Australia returns 79 Sri Lankan asylum seekers

Colombo, Oct 25 (IANS) Australia has sent back 79 Sri Lankans who attempted to illegally migrate by boat to seek asylum in that country, pushing the number of those returned to nearly 1,400 since August 2012, the Australian embassy said in a statement here Thursday.

"When people arrive in Australia without a valid visa, any claims they make for their reasons to travel to Australia are assessed by the department," a department of immigration and citizenship (DIAC) official was quoted as saying in the statement, Xinhua reported.

"If these claims are not covered by Australia's international obligations, they will be returned to their homeland wherever possible."

Under new rules announced July 19, anyone - including a person from Sri Lanka - who arrives in Australia by boat without a visa no longer has the chance to settle in Australia.

"If they are not quickly returned to Colombo, they will be taken to Papua New Guinea or Nauru where their claims will be assessed," the spokesman said.

Despite the end of a three decade war in 2009, the number of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka has increased pushing the Australian government to take tough measures to prevent them from reaching that country.

At least another 1,500 have been arrested by the navy while attempting to leave Sri Lanka by boat.

The Australian government is working closely with the local Navy to monitor and prevent boat people from Sri Lanka and have implemented awareness programs to discourage locals from attempting to illegally migrate.

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