Colombo: Australia on Thursday returned 42 Sri Lankan asylum seekers, taking the total number of returnees to 1,000 since August last year.
The Australian government has forcibly deported nearly 862 asylum seekers since last year after a large number of Sri Lankan nationals were found to be taking risky boat rides to arrive in the country.
The issue coincides with the visit of Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Brendan O`Connor to Colombo today. He will meet senior ministers and agency officials to discuss ongoing cooperation in enhancing migration management.
O`Connor said the visit would highlight Australia`s keen interest in continuing to work closely with Sri Lanka.
"Sri Lanka is an important regional partner. Of the many issues that will be discussed I particularly want to convey Australia`s appreciation of Sri Lanka`s continued cooperation in the return of Sri Lankan nationals who are found not to be owed protection in Australia," said O`Connor.
The refuge seekers, mostly belonging to the Tamil minority, have claimed that the reason for their exodus is the large scale rights abuses taking place in the island country, which Australia has dismissed describing them as economic migrants.