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Australia working with India and Sri Lanka to resettle refugees

Internally displaced Sri Lankan Tamil civilians at a camp for the displaced in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka. A 2009 file photo.   | Photo Credit: AP

As part of broader measures to prevent human smuggling on the high seas, Australia is working with India and Sri Lanka to rehabilitate refuges interested in going back to the island nation, Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg said on Friday.

“There are about 1,00,000 Sri Lankan people who fled to Tamil Nadu in the past... There are certain number of them who want to go back. We have an obligation to assist India and Sri Lanka in that resettlement,” he said in an interaction with a select group of journalists.

He said that his force has been actively working with the Indian Coast Guard in countering smuggling operations to prevent Sri Lankan diaspora in Tamil Nadu from reaching Australia.

The resettlement is of interest to Australia in the broader efforts to prevent human smuggling and has committed $1-2 million for the resettlement over the next two years. “We want to ensure that the money goes for practical outcomes of resettlement and rehabilitation and sustain them once they return to Sri Lanka,” he stated.

On the timelines for rolling out the program, he said the issue of resettlement was under discussion for the last six months and could begin implementation “probably in the next few months.”

Mr. Quaedvlieg is accompanying the Australian Border Force Cutter ‘Ocean Shield’ which is currently docked in Chennai. In his visit to Tamil Nadu on Thursday, he held discussions with officials in Chennai. One of the objectives of his visit is to continue discussions on the issue of resettlement as well as take forward the counter terrorism cooperation.

Australia had seen huge influx of refugees through the sea in the past. According to Mr. Quaedvlieg, 2013 was the year with highest arrivals into Australia following which the Australian Government began ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’.

In the case of India, the last boat was intercepted in 2014 in which 157 people entered Australian contiguous waters. “The threat still remains… we are not changing our operational posture,” he added. The issue will be part of his discussions with officials in New Delhi as well.


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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 5:44:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/australia-working-with-india-and-sri-lanka-to-resettle-refugees/article18509041.ece

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