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In an effort to disrupt the business of people smugglers that often ends in deaths at sea, the Australian government is to transfer two surplus Australian patrol boats to Sri Lanka. In addition to providing the boats, Australia will train the Sri Lankan Navy on their use.

People Smugglers and Government

In 2012, under the policies of the Labor government, 120 boats came from Sri Lanka to Australia. The people smugglers had a great business plan and the then Australian Labor government had virtually no response to it initially. In 2013, only 14 boats made the journey and there were 12 ocean intercepts by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Since the late change of Australian government policy made by Kevin Rudd, Sri Lanka has supported the strategic communication campaign to deter people from paying people smugglers and traveling to Australia by leaky boat. This has disrupted the people smuggling business there. The new Australian government has continued and expanded that campaign, under its Operation Sovereign Borders policy.

A press release issued by the Abbott government yesterday said “The Sri Lankan government has effectively got the message out in people smuggling hotspots throughout Sri Lanka that illegal entry by boat will never lead to resettlement in Australia.”

Stopping People Smugglers

The bilateral Australia-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on People Smuggling and Transnational Crime and regional Bali Process allow cooperation with Sri Lanka to effectively counter people smuggling operations.

The Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, that began in 2002, effectively raised regional awareness of the consequences of people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime. Strategies were developed and implemented to generate practical cooperation in response to smuggling operations. The Bali Process is a voluntary forum supported by 45 members, including several United Nations groups.

The message the Abbott government wants to hammer home, and does at every opportunity, is that any illegal maritime arrival in Australia will not result in settlement in Australia, so there is no point in attempting to reach Australia by boat. Although they are not easy, there are legal means available.


People Smugglers - illegal boat arrivals chart

Chart showing the number of illegal boat arrivals in Australia since 1976