Sri Lanka, Australian security co-operation stopped people smuggling: Dutton
COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Close co-operation between Australian and Sri Lankan security agencies had put a stop to people smuggling by boat, visiting Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said Wednesday.
“People understand now that Operation Sovereign Borders is ensuring that the illegal way to Australia is closed.” Dutton told a news conference at the end of his visit to Colombo.
Australia, which has gifted the Sri Lankan Navy two fully furbished Bay-class patrol boats to enhance its long-range maritime patrols, has a good understanding with Sri Lanka that has helped prevent people smuggling, he said.
“There’s close co-operation between the intelligence agencies, customs, police and naval services of the two countries,” said Dutton.
“The significant friendship between the two countries means we can be involved in disruption activities so we stop them (people smugglers) before they leave.”
Dutton was accompanied on his visit by the Commander Operation Sovereign Borders Major General Andrew Bottrell and the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Michael Outram.
They held talks with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene and other officials.
Dutton and his team also met Sri Lanka’s Navy Commander Jayantha Perera at the Naval Headquarters in Colombo where the Minister “expressed his appreciation of the cooperation extended by the Sri Lanka Navy for the joint efforts to prevent people smuggling,” a navy statement said.
At the news conference Wednesday, Dutton did not give a direct answer when asked about claims by Wickremesinghe that the Australian government’s silence on alleged human rights abuses was the price it paid to secure co-operation from the former Rajapaksa government on stopping asylum-seeker boats.
Dutton said in a statement that there has been no successful arrival of people smuggler boats in Australia since June last year – over 10 months ago.