An Australian vessel docked in Colombo last week, as it forcibly sent back 46 asylum seekers who were looking to flee Sri Lanka after it intercepted their vessel on 21 July 2022 at the Australia’s maritime border.
The move reportedly marks the first time that asylum seekers fleeing Sri Lanka are forcibly brought to the island on board an Australian Border Force ship.
Australian authorities have forcibly sent 183 people who were attempting to flee Sri Lanka back to the island since May 2022 alone according to Commander Chris Waters, the Regional Director for South Asia of Australian Border Force.
Addressing reporters outside the docked vessel in Colombo, Waters reportedly said “the Australian Government highly valued the relationship with Sri Lankan partners in combating people smuggling and said that the relationship is considered the gold standard in this endeavour”.
The asylum seekers, who had left from Batticaloa last month, were marched off the boat and made to stand for photographs before being detained by Sri Lankan authorities.
The latest move by Australia come as the newly elected government continues to face criticism over its border policy.
Whilst many, including the prime minister, posed for photographs with the Eelam Tamil Biloela family as they succeeded in their legal battles to remain in Australia, authorities continue to turn back other asylum seekers.