Australia

‘Policy doesn’t change’: Labor underlines commitment to boat turnbacks after latest interception

Labor minister Tony Burke reaffirmed the government’s commitment to boat turnbacks, saying the “policy doesn’t change”.
It follows the second asylum seeker vessel in a month to be intercepted near Christmas Island, with the latest interception occurring on Thursday.
The first boat from Sri Lanka was .

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Mr Burke, who briefly served as immigration minister during the Rudd government, said the “one good thing” the previous Coalition government delivered was “how to handle this issue”.
“People who try to come by boat get turned around and sent back,” he told the Nine Network on Friday.
“When they [the Coalition] came up with a way of being able to do the turnbacks, it was a good idea. We back it.”
According to The Australian newspaper, the latest boat was carrying 15 men between the ages of 20 and 30 when the engine failed.

After being intercepted by border force, the group was reportedly brought ashore at Christmas Island early on Thursday and deported to Colombo on a government-chartered plane, accompanied by up to 30 Australian officials and contractors.

They were handed over to Australian high commission officials upon arrival in Sri Lanka’s capital, before later being turned over to the country’s immigration officials, the Australian reported.
Sri Lanka is currently dealing with its .
Retired Sri Lankan rear admiral N Attygalle said many of those trying to leave the country were former migrant workers, largely from the Sinhalese Buddhist majority whose homes were north of Colombo.
“Some of them returned from Italy but have since found their jobs no longer exist so they think they will try Australia because they’re being told by racketeers there might be leniency towards them because of the situation in Sri Lanka,” he told the Australian.

Nationals leader David Littleproud said the second boat arrival was due to people smugglers seeing a “chink in the amour” of the nation’s borders.

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“This is a real test for this government, about whether they have the ticker to stand up to people smugglers,” he said.
“If they [government)] don’t hold the line, and continue on the trajectory that we need as a government, then you will see boats coming … lives lost and you will see billions of dollars spent in trying to fix this problem.”
Australia’s policy of boat turnbacks was first introduced by the Howard government, following in 2001, with the prime minister famously declaring: “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”.
It was then scrapped by Kevin Rudd after he was elected prime minister in 2007, before being revived by the Abbott government in 2013 with the launch of Operation Sovereign Borders.
The Department of Home Affairs reported that between 18 September 2013, and 31 December 2021, Australian authorities intercepted 38 suspected people-smuggling vessels and returned 873 “potential illegal immigrants” to their home countries or departure points.

Additional reporting by Amy Hall

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