The recent return of 13 Sri Lankan asylum seekers who voluntarily flew home to Colombo brings the total number of returned Sri Lankans to almost 1000 since August last year, the Australian High Commission said.
A total of 942 Sri Lankan asylum seekers have returned, both voluntarily and involuntarily, after they either failed to engage Australia’s protection obligations, or voluntarily withdrew from the asylum seeker process after arriving unlawfully in Australia by boat.
There have been 213 voluntary returns, representing those who abandoned their claims for asylum, demonstrating clearly there is no advantage engaging with people smugglers.
People in a regional processing centre or immigration detention facility can request their return at any time.
The most recent group of involuntary returnees, totalling 19, arrived in Sri Lanka on January 17.
Meantime, transfers of asylum seekers to regional processing facilities in Nauru and Papua New Guinea continue. The facilities were established following the Australian Government’s policy announcements on August 13, 2012.
Australia’s Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, has confirmed that the Australian Government would continue to return people where they do not engage Australia’s international obligations.
“People who pay smugglers are risking their lives and throwing their money away,” Mr Bowen said. “There is no visa on arrival, there is no speedy outcome, and there is no special treatment.”