Australia To Discuss Boat People With Sri Lanka

Australia to discuss boat people with Sri Lanka

The China Post
November 7, 2009

COLOMBO — Australian and Sri Lankan officials will hold high-level talks on Monday in Colombo on ways to combat people smuggling and illegal immigration, a foreign ministry official said.

Australian diplomats here say Sri Lanka has overtaken Afghanistan and Iraq as the number one source of illegal immigrants entering Australian territory. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's special envoy John McCarthy are due to hold the talks on how to stem the flow of Sri Lankan boat people heading to Australia, the foreign ministry official said.

We will talk about the illegal migration, especially of Sri Lankans heading off to Australia by boat and seeking refugee status, said the foreign ministry official, declining to be named. The sinking of a boat carrying 39 Sri Lankan migrants in stormy weather in waters northwest of Australia this week left 12 people dead.

The migrants were a part of a succession of over 1,500 people from several countries who have made the perilous boat journey to Australia this year.

Meanwhile the Sri Lankan government said yesterday that the leader of a boat of Sri Lankan asylum seekers held in Indonesia on their way to Australia is a known people smuggler previously deported from Canada. Alex, who emerged as the spokesman for the 255 Sri Lankans whose boat was detained last month, is Kulaendrarajah Sanjeev, a 28-year-old who worked out of a base in India, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The man, who led an abortive hunger strike demanding that those on board be granted refugee status, was expelled from Canada in 2003, the statement said. Alex had been involved in human smuggling for a long time and it is believed that his office is based in India, the statement said.

His brother who is now in Canada is also involved in human smuggling and is being sought by Canadian police, the statement added.

The ministry did not give further details. Alex, or Sanjeev, had told AFP in Indonesia that he acquired his North American accent while working at a call center.

An ethnic Tamil, he had told reporters the asylum seekers were in danger in Sri Lanka in the wake of the government's defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels earlier this year, although he denies they were rebel separatists. The Australian government has said another known smuggler, Abraham Lauhenaspessy, known as Captain Bram, was found on the boat.