The Australian government says it is engaging proactively and positively with Sri Lanka to prevent the illegal migration of people through the sea route and the measures taken in cooperation with Sri Lanka are successful in reducing the number of people illegally entering its borders.
In an interview with a radio program Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison said the Australian government is cooperating with Sri Lanka to ensure that the island nation has the necessary means to ensure the integrity of its borders, which ensure integrity of his country's borders.
He was responding to a media query about the patrol vessel gifted to Sri Lanka to assist the anti-people smuggling operations.
Australia Tuesday signed the deed for the transfer of one of the two Bay Class patrol vessels it promised to gift to Sri Lanka by the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott when he visited Sri Lanka last November to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo.
The first of the two boats has already left Cairns port and the other one will be delivered in July, the Minister said.
Responding to the concerns regarding returning the illegal migrants back to Sri Lanka promptly, Morrison said the measure is to ensure that people don't take the dangerous sea voyage all the way to Australia.
He noted that thousands have been repatriated back to Sri Lanka and the international organizations such as UNHCR and IOM are there to provide assistance to the people.
"Well India is about 30km away and you can almost walk there on high tide. In Sri Lanka the UNHCR is there, other international organizations are there, the IOM, there have been thousands of people repatriated back into Sri Lanka over the last few years and it is many years since the Sri Lankan civil war ended now and what we're seeing is real progress," the Minister commented.
The Minister noted that large number of Sri Lankans have arrived through legitimate migration pathways as skilled migration and family migration and rubbished the suggestion that only resort people have in Sri Lanka to come to Australia is illegally by sea.
"We have a legitimate migration program and if people want to engage that legitimate migration program then the evidence is there that if you've got a skill and you've got a basis to be able to come here legitimately then that is being demonstrated to be possible," he said.
Dismissing the concerns expressed by the UNHCR on Australia's policy of turning back the illegal migrants without considering their cases, the Australian Minister said the policy is a success and it is not only good for Australia but also good for the region since the policy curtails the migration and prevents the deaths of the migrants at sea.