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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More