Coalition govt would stop Sri Lankan boats
Australian Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison and deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop

Coalition govt would stop Sri Lankan boats

February 4, 2013   09:25 am

A future coalition government would give Sri Lanka the support it needs to stop suspected asylum seeker boats from leaving its shores, Australia’s opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says.

Mr Morrison and the coalition’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop on Monday revisited the Opposition’s border protection policy following a recent fact-finding mission to Sri Lanka.

Boats carrying suspected asylum seekers from the Indian Ocean island to Australia have surged since last May.

“It is the coalition’s policy to ensure that those boats do not cross our sea borders,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

“Our policy is to send (them) back.”

Mr Morrison said if the coalition won government it would work with Sri Lanka to try to stop the asylum seeker boats, including supplying and outfitting boats for the Sri Lankan navy, and fuelling and maintaining them.

“The most important thing is to beef up the capacity of Sri Lanka to ensure they (the boats) don’t get within a few hundred nautical miles of Australia,” Mr Morrison said.

The aim was to increase the interception rate to three boats out of three, from one of three.

Mr Morrison declined to give further details of potential operations, citing security reasons.

Last week, Ms Bishop, Mr Morrison and opposition border protection spokesman Michael Keenan met Sri Lankan government officials, the chief of the defence forces and leaders from the navy, customs, police and intelligence.

Mr Morrison said the strong message coming out of the trip was that Sri Lankan boat arrivals were coming to Australia for economic and lifestyle reasons.

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne rejected Mr Morrison’s claim Sri Lanka was now a safe place following the end in 2009 of a 25-year civil war between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority.

“I would take much more strongly the views of Amnesty International and other human rights activists than the coalition,” Senator Milne told reporters. - AAP

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