Colombo: Sri Lanka is determined to curb illegal migration to Australia, Navy Chief Jayantha Perera said on Thursday, amid a row over a controversial mid-sea transfer of Lankan asylum-seekers by Canberra.
"We have deployed navy boats to prevent anyone going by boat illegally to Australia. We also receive intelligence information before the people make the boat journey," Vice Admiral Perera said.
Perera, who took charge as the head of 58,000 strong Naval force last week, said the immigrants making risky journey to Australia were mere economic migrants.
They attempt such moves to make more money partly due to ignorance, he said in the central town of Kandy.
An example was the 41 people returned by Australia yesterday.
The new Navy chief said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott himself had said that Sri Lanka was a peaceful country and as such there was no need for anyone from the Island nation to go as illegal migrants.
He stressed that his force would continue with its operations to curb illegal migration. This will soon stop.
His comments came as Scott Morrison, Australia`s Minister of Immigration and Border Protection, visited the country`s civil war ravaged northern region yesterday.
Morrison donated two patrol boats as part of its programme of cooperation with the Sri Lankan authorities in their bid to tackle the illegal immigration racket.
Some of the returnees out of the 41 sent back by Australia after a dubious mid-sea transfer claimed ill-treatment by Australian authorities during the screening process.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR was critical of the screening process.
But Morrison denied any wrong doing and claims of ill- treatment by Australian authorities of Lankan asylum-seekers.