Colombo: Twenty Sri Lankans have been returned after attempting to illegally migrate to Australia by boat, the Australian High Commission said in a statement here on Thursday, bringing the total number of returnees to 963.
Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Brendan O’ Connor had announced that another group of Sri Lankan boat people were flown home from Christmas Island to Colombo, according to the statement.
"The group of 20 was advised of its status and that all of its members were subject to removal from Australia as none of them raised issues that engaged Australia’s international obligations. Without a valid visa they had no legal right to remain in Australia," it added.
Since August 13 last year, 963 Sri Lankans have been returned 756 of them involuntarily.
"When people arrived in Australia unauthorized, any claims they make for their reasons to travel to Australia are assessed by the Department of Immigration. If these claims are not covered by the refugee convention, they will be returned to their homeland wherever possible," O’Connor was quoted as saying.
"People who pay smugglers are risking their lives and throwing their money away."
Last year, Australia began a policy of returning illegal migrants within 72 hours.
Over 1,500 people have also been arrested by Sri Lankan navy while attempting to illegally migrate by boat.
The main reason given for the high number of illegal migrants by experts is worsening economic conditions in Sri Lanka, mainly pushed by high cost of living.