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Australia must give 72 hours' notice before

returning 153 Sri Lankan asylum seekers

Tony Abbott's government has already faced international condemnation for
sending back a grou of !1 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka
The government of Australia has promised it will not return 153 asylum
seekers to Sri Lanka without providing 72 hours notice an undertaking activists said
was a minor victory in a long!running "attle#
The government of "rime #inister Tony Abbott told an emergency court hearing in
Sydney the asylum seekers $ould for no$ remain in Australian custody% on the high
#r Abbott is facing intense condemnation after his government confirmed it had at the
$eekend handed a boatload of asylum seekers to the government of Sri Lanka $here
they no$ face 'rigorous imrisonment(&
After days of silence on the fate of around 2)) Sri Lankan asylum*seekers reortedly
interceted by the Australians last month% the government on #onday said !1 of them
had been assessed and transferred to the Sri Lankan authorities at sea&
+n a statement% Australia,s immigration minister Scott #orrison said the !1 Sri
Lankans had been interceted by ersonnel from the border atrol off the -ocos
+slands in the +ndian .cean in late /une& After an assessment at sea re0ected their
claims for asylum% they $ere handed over on Sunday to the Sri Lankan authorities off
the Sri Lankan ort of 1atticaloa&
.n Tuesday% a hearing of the 2igh -ourt in Sydney $as ad0ourned to allo$ the
government to meet $ith reresentatives for 153 asylum seekers from a second boat 3
including $omen and children 3 to discuss $hat should haen to them&
A la$yer for the Australian government told the court the grou $as interceted 12
miles from Australia and outside the country,s migration 4one% according to the
5euters ne$s agency& They are no$ on an Australian navy vessel on the high seas% the
la$yer said&
Australia has for several years been toughening its stance to$ards asylum seekers and
migrants% and imlementing a olicy of turning their boats around& A number of boats
have casi4ed on their $ay to Australia and do4ens of eole have dro$ned&
6et this is the first time during so*called .eration Sovereign 1orders the government
has admitted that it made an assessment of claims $hile still on the ocean& The move
has been $idely criticised and there are fears that the asylum seekers 3 many of $hom
claim to be members of Sri Lanka,s Tamil minority 3 could face ersecution&
The government has been trying to hide its mistreatment and violation of human
rights behind a cloak of secrecy%( +an 5intoul% of the 5efugee Action -ommittee
Sydney% told The +ndeendent&
2e claimed #r Abbott $as trying to halt his declining aroval ratings by laying
tough on immigration& 'Sri Lanka is kno$n for its violations of human rights& +f $e can
sto that% $e are hay%( he added&
Last $eek a flurry of reorts emerged that t$o boats of Sri Lankan refugees making
their $ay to$ards Australia had been interceted by the Australians&
+t is understood that the boat containing !1 eole had come directly from Sri Lanka
$hile the second vessel% containing 153 eole% had set off from "ondicherry% on the
southern +ndian coast&
+t is thought many of those on board $ere Sri Lankan Tamils $ho $ere living in
refugee cams in the +ndian state of Tamil 7adu& .thers may have crossed the "alk
Strait to 0oin the boat in southern +ndia& The +ndian government has yet to comment
on the issue&
Australia says it has been confronted by a flood of $ould*be migrants from Sri Lanka&
#any of them are members of the country,s Tamil minority& +n the final stages of the
country,s civil $ar% $hich ended five years ago% many Tamil civilians suffered at the
hands of both the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Tamil rebel grou% the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil 8elam&
The Australians said only one of the forty*one eole on board the first boat $as found
to have a ossible case for asylum& 2aving been given the otion of being transferred
to Australia,s detention cams in 7auru or "aua 7e$ 9uinea for further rocessing%
the erson oted to be returned to Sri Lanka&
Activists say there is the risk that some of those handed over could face mistreatment&
The Australian government kno$s that torture% disaearances and rae revail in Sri
Lanka%( said Suren Surendiran% of the 9lobal Tamil :orum& '+nstead of being on the
side of the rest of the international community in fi;ing the root causes $hich drive
eole to take to unsafe boats in rough seas% Australia has chosen to breach its o$n
international obligations&(
.n #onday evening% it $as reorted that in the coming days% the !1 Sri Lankans $ere
to be brought before a court in 9alle and charged $ith leaving the country illegally&
'The sentence for those roved to have left illegally is t$o years of rigorous
imrisonment and a fine%( olice sokesman A0ith 5ohana told 5euters&
Last $eek% the <nited 7ations refugee agency% <72-5% issued a statement e;ressing
its 'rofound concern( that Australia $as rocessing asylum seekers at sea rather than
bringing them ashore to assess their claims&
<72-5 considers that individuals $ho seek asylum must be roerly and
individually screened for rotection needs%( it said& '+nternational la$ rescribes that
no individual can be returned involuntarily to a country in $hich he or she has a $ell*
founded fear of ersecution&'
+n a statement on #onday% 53 Australian legal scholars said Australia's olicy raised
the risk of forcing eole back to their lace of origin% $here many could face
ersecution& They said that $ould breach Australia,s obligations under international
refugee and human rights la$&