News / Asia

    Australia Faces Influx of Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers

    Sri Lankans asylum seekers stay on their traditional boat near Dili's port, July 31, 2002.
    Sri Lankans asylum seekers stay on their traditional boat near Dili's port, July 31, 2002.
    Phil Mercer
    Refugee specialists in Sri Lanka say Australia can expect more refugee boats to reach its coastline following the arrival this week of asylum seekers at a busy port north of Perth.  Australia’s conservative opposition is accusing the Labor government of losing control of the nation’s borders.  In Melbourne, more than 25 asylum seekers are continuing a hunger strike that began on Monday.

    The government in Canberra has ordered a review into how a boat carrying 66 suspected asylum seekers from Sri Lanka managed to make it to the Australian mainland without being detected.

    It is only the second asylum vessel to reach the mainland in the last five years.

    Immigration officials say it is an unusual case.  An investigation is underway that will examine whether Australian authorities need to change the way they patrol the Indian Ocean that surrounds the country’s northwestern coastline.

    Opposition lawmakers say the arrival of the boat is a “disaster” for the nation’s border protection strategy.  They insist Australia’s vast northwest shoreline is poorly protected and expect more asylum boats to try to reach the mainland.

    That is a view shared by Jehan Perera from the Sri Lankan National Peace Council.

    Perera said the arrival of the boat in the Western Australian port of Geraldton will encourage other asylum seekers to attempt the long sea voyage.

    “It would serve as an incentive.  I mean the fact that some got through, it would send a message to others who are also thinking of leaving Sri Lanka that way to try their luck," he said.

    Allegations of political persecution drive many Tamil asylum seekers to try to reach Australia.

    Joint efforts by the Australian and Sri Lankan governments have reduced the number of asylum seeker boats attempting to cross the Indian Ocean.

    In the past couple of years, a steady flow of asylum seekers arriving in Australia’s northern waters has prompted the government to reopen offshore processing camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

    In Melbourne, refugees at the Broadmeadows Detention Facility are entering a fourth day of a hunger strike.  Most are Tamils, who are facing indefinite detention after Australia’s intelligence agencies classified them a threat to national security.

    But Trevor Grant, from the Tamil Refugee Council, believes the detainees have been unfairly labeled as extremists.

    “Some of them have been detained as long as four years.  They are under indefinite detention," Grant remarked.  "The high court said last year that is illegal.  Everybody agrees that it is an impossible situation, but for some reason the minister for immigration, who has the power to release them, refuses to do so.  We believe it is because he fears the terrorism bogey, which is quite ridiculous, and to use people’s lives like this for political ends is disgraceful, as far as we are concerned.”     

    Australia’s Immigration Department says the refugees have access to food, water and medical treatment at all times.

    As the hunger strikers promise to continue their protest, Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor says he will not bow to pressure.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora