Australia yesterday returned home a group of 42 Sri Lankan men involuntarily while another six men have left voluntarily, the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship confirmed.
Five of the six men left voluntarily were transferred from Nauru to the mainland before departing Perth for Colombo on a commercial flight. A sixth man who had been detained in Western Australia had joined them.
"The six men chose to return home voluntarily," a departmental spokesman said.
Over the past weekend eight Sri Lankans, five form Christmas Island on Saturday and three from Perth on Sunday, returned to Sri Lanka voluntarily.
According to the Department transfers of boat arrivals to Nauru have continued and more would be returned in the coming weeks.
The involuntary returnees - all recent arrivals from different boats, have been advised of their status and that they were subject to removal from Australia. They have raised no issues that engaged Australia's international obligations, the authorities said.
With the latest return 682 Sri Lankans have been sent back to Colombo involuntarily and another 85 voluntarily after August 13 when Australia announced that irregular maritime arrivals or boatpeople would be transferred to regional processing facilities in Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
The asylum seekers are required to stay in the offshore detention centers for a long time before they can get a visa.
Australia says the Sri Lankan boatpeople are getting the message that there is no visa on arrival, and there is no special treatment.
"Regular transfers to Nauru and more Sri Lankans returning home is further proof there is no advantage engaging with people smugglers," the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Australia's Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, says the practise of sending Sri Lankan asylum seekers back home is discouraging people smugglers.
More than 750 Sri Lankans have either asked to return home, or been forced back, since the Government resumed offshore processing in August.
"We are very, very happy with the relationship we've got with the government in Sri Lanka," Senator Carr said.
"And very, very happy that they are cooperating with us in facilitating the return of people who are not asylum seekers, who are economic refugees and have no claim to jump the queue."
The Australian Foreign Minister will arrive in Colombo today to discuss efforts to disrupt people smuggling, as well as trade ties and tourism.