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Tuesday, November 06, 2012 - 06.02 GMT

Sri Lankans heading to Australia are economic migrants - IOM


The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has backed Australia's view that some of the Sri Lankans arriving by boat are economic migrants, not refugees.

The number of Sri Lankans trying to reach Australia by boat has increased by 25-fold over the past 12 months, from 211 irregular maritime arrivals in 2011, to more than 5,300 already this year.

The Chief of mission for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Sri Lanka, Richard Danziger told Radio Australia one of the factors driving Sri Lankans to board boats to Australia is their economic situation.

The IOM is working with the Australian Government helping repatriate the Sri Lankans who chose to return home rather than wait for years in detention centres in Australia or on Nauru.

He says many of those who have chosen to return to Sri Lanka voluntarily originally left their homeland in search of work.

"That is often what we hear, people tell us they were just seeking better lives," he said.

Last week, Australia's immigration minister Chris Bowen sent 26 men back to Sri Lanka who had arrived by boat, suggesting they were economic refugees.

"We have, of course, developed robust procedures for dealing with genuine claims for asylum, but we will not have people who do not have genuine claims to make be going through our system," Mr. Bowen said.

The men who have chosen to go home often return to tough financial times, often with large debts to people smugglers who helped them get to Australia.

The Australian Government is offering assistance packages worth several thousand dollars to those who return voluntarily and are not deemed to be members of people smuggling crews.

The IOM is also working with Australia's Department of Immigration to warn people who do try to come to Australia by boat that they face being detained for a length period, without work rights.







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Last modified: November 06, 2012.

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