Australia has a relatively rigorous process to screen the Sri Lankan migrants arriving at the country's shores illegally in boats that will deter the asylum seekers and vastly reduce the chances of them dying in the seas, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Brendan O'Connor said.
Rejecting the claims that the Labor Government is has set a quota of Sri Lankans to be returned under the enhanced screening process, the Australian Minister said the screening is done properly by a relatively rigorous process.
"We are very careful in ensuring that people are able to explain situations in order to determine whether, in fact, they engage our international obligations," O'Connor said in an interview with Radio National.
According to the Minister 6,000 Sri Lankans arrived in Australia in the last three months of 2012 and due to the new screening policy the illegal arrivals declined by 90 percent.
"We had 6000 arrivals of Sri Lankans in the last three months of last year, and, of course, we talk about boats coming and leading to the maritime deaths," he said.
"When we started to screen people, we actually saw a decline of 90 per cent, which means the chances of people dying at sea, of course, will vastly reduce because of that process," he added.
The Minister said some people were returned, and there were others who were not returned because it was possible that they engaged international obligations.
"I think that's the reasonable approach in the circumstances, and I think that's led to saving lives at sea," O'Connor said.
Australia, since implementing its new screening policy on August 13, has returned 1,206 Sri Lankans home and 994 of them involuntarily.