Australian Opposition Blasts Gov't Over Surging Boat Arrivals From Sri Lanka - Report
The Australian government announced this week that it is funding the installation of GPS trackers on around 4,000 Sri Lankan fishing boats, in a bid to “combat people smuggling” and monitor illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.
Australia’s federal opposition leader and former Defense Minister Peter Dutton has hit out at Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s government for “trashing” the country’s border security, as he expressed concerns over a mounting number of Sri Lankans arriving in Australia illegally by boat, Australian media reported.
"This is a significant and emerging problem for the new government but it's a problem of their own making. The situation in Sir Lanka hasn't occurred in the last four weeks since this government was elected," Sky News quoted Dutton.
The Liberal Party leader said that the previous government, which was in power till last month, was able to “stare down” people smugglers.
The scathing criticism by Dutton comes against the backdrop of Australian border forces and Sri Lankan Navy reporting having intercepted four boats bound for Australia from the South Asian nation in the last five weeks.
Dutton argued that the Labor government’s pre-election pledge to scrap the temporary protection visa (TPV) and replace it with a permanent one has encouraged human trafficking syndicates to transport migrants from Sri Lanka to Australia.
The TPVs have been described as one of the “three pillars” of Operation Sovereign Borders
(OSB), an Australian military-led policy that seeks to intercept asylum seekers at sea, and either return them to the port of origin or transport them to an offshore detention center. It was introduced by former Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott in 2013.
“They wanted you to believe that they had Operation Sovereign Borders as their policy but of course it's not. They removed the central limb to OSB which was the temporary protection visa,” Dutton reportedly stated.
"And the people smugglers aren't stupid, they're sophisticated criminal syndicates and their marketing on that basis to people,” he reportedly added.
Otherwise, both the Labor and the Liberals have a consensus on “offshore processing” and the turning back of boats, the other two pillars of the OSB.
The opposition leader reportedly described Prime Minister Albanese’s policy on border protection as “ham-fisted”.
Dutton claimed that he didn’t want the asylum seekers coming to Australia to end up in offshore processing centers. Rights groups such as Amnesty International have in the past slammed the Australian government for the mistreatment of asylum seekers at the centers, which have been described as “open air prisons”.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has slammed the OSB, arguing that the right to seek asylum is guaranteed under the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’.
Sri Lanka is facing the worst economic crisis since Independence in 1948, with depleting forex reserves resulting in the government’s inability to pay for fuel, food and other essential imports. The fuel crisis led to violence at petrol pumps in several parts of the country over the weekend.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the country’s parliament on Wednesday that the government didn’t have the money
to buy any more fuel, as Colombo awaits an official confirmation from New Delhi on a $500 million credit line to buy petrol, diesel and kerosene.