Gotabhaya seeks Australia’s support for anti-human smuggling effort

Having met Australian Navy Chief Vice Admiral (VA) Ray Griggs on the sidelines of Galle Dialogue 2012, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told The Island that Australian support could strengthen ongoing anti-human smuggling operations undertaken by the Lankan navy.

The meeting took place after the Defence Secretary Rajapaksa delivered the keynote address at the inauguration of the two-day event on Thursday (13) at the Light House Hotel in Galle.

Responding to a query, the Defence Secretary said that additional assets as well as training were necessary to streamline ongoing naval operations aimed at curbing illegal migration of Sri Lankans to Australia.

Since the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009, the Defence Ministry has authorized the deployment of substantial naval assets in support of the operation. The Defence Secretary said that the current post-war naval deployment was in support of Australia’s efforts to curb illegal migration.

During Thursday meeting, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa explained to the Aussie Naval Chief how they could help GoSL stop trawlers carrying bogus refugees.

The Defence Secretary emphasized the importance of joint efforts to curb wave of illegal migrants. Rajapaksa asserted that the current visit undertaken by Australian Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr, too, would contribute to further improvement of bilateral relations.

The Defence Secretary said that Sri Lanka would continue to cooperate with the Australian government. Addressing representatives from 27 countries, he said that almost 3,000 would be illegal migrants were detected this year alone.

A senior security official told The Island that the LTTE rump was working overtime to cripple joint Australian – Sri Lankan effort, with Bishop of Mannar Rt. Rev. Rayappu Joseph recently urging Australia to suspend deportations as the situation in predominately Tamil Northern and Eastern districts wasn’t conducive for their return. The Bishop alleged the military and particularly intelligence services were targeting those forcibly sent back by Australia. The allegations were made in the run-up to Galle Dialogue. The Australian response to illegal migration was an example to other countries, he said, adding that the UK, too, was taking tough measures to curb bogus asylum seekers.

Australia stepped up deportations in the wake of former Navy Commander Vice Admiral Somathilake Dissanayake urging Australian High Commissioner here Robyn Mudie to start sending unwelcome visitors back. Vice Admiral Dissanayake said that deportations were necessary to discourage those trying to exploit Australian laws.

Australia struggling to discourage bogus refugees recently began moving those arriving in the country through illegal means to offshore detention facilities.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

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