People-smugglers set sail from new ports
Paul Maley and Paige Taylor
From: The Australian
August 18, 2010 12:00AM
REFUGEE boats are sailing from as far away as India as people-smugglers attempt to beat a crackdown by Sri Lankan and Australian authorities.
With asylum-seekers threatening to dominate the final week of the election campaign, there is fresh evidence people- smuggling syndicates are adapting their tactics to beat a concerted effort by Australian authorities to eliminate the trade.
Yesterday, Julia Gillard said it was very important governments stopped asylum boats leaving foreign shores. “I don't want to see people risking their lives at sea. I don't want to see people- smugglers profiting,” the Prime Minister said.
Her remarks followed moves by Tony Abbott to deepen his border security credentials by promising on Monday to personally decide which boats are turned back. Speaking at the National Press Club yesterday, the Opposition Leader defended the idea that has been attacked as violating international law.
“The legal position today would be the same as the legal position was back in 2001 and 2002 when boats were successfully turned around and lives weren't lost,” he said.
The Australian understands authorities are concerned about the possible emergence of an India-based people-smuggling pipeline — a shift by the syndicates that operate out of Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. It's not clear how many boats have sailed from India, although sources indicated the number was low.
Tamils have in the past comprised the second-largest category of boatpeople, although in recent months their numbers have dropped dramatically.
One source described the India-pipeline as a “barely perceptible trend”.
“Ventures that otherwise would have been organised out of Sri Lanka have been organised out of India,” the source said.
The development is under-stood to be a response to the success Australia and Sri Lanka have had in cracking down on asylum boats leaving Sri Lanka.
The immigration department is investigating how a Kurdish detainee escaped from Christmas Island's Immigration Detention Centre overnight on Monday. He was back behind wire last night after a nine-hour search by federal police, immigration officers and guards. He was found yesterday afternoon about 500m from the boundary of the centre yesterday.
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Flotilla of asylum seekers heads to Oz Daily Telegraph, 11 Apr 2010