Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said on Monday that a boat carrying 12 asylum seekers were sent back to Sri Lanka last week after it reached Cocos Island. Dutton added that all the asylum seekers were Sri Lankans.
Since January 1, the Australian authorities have intercepted three asylum seeker boats, according to Dutton. However, he did not provide any details on it. The announcement was made on Monday, the official day for Australia’s federal election campaign, the BBC reported.
“That brings to three the number of vessels that have sought to arrive and have been turned back, the people returned back to their country of origin in this calendar year,” he said. “It underscores the fact that people smugglers are very desperate to try and get vessels away from Indonesia and Sri Lanka with people on board.”
The Cocos Islands are a remote group of islands and atolls located between Sri Lanka and the west coast of Australia.
Dutton’s announcement came after Labor candidate Sophie Ismail criticised her party’s stance on the asylum seekers. She took to social media, calling for an immediate end to the cruelty on asylum seekers at the detention centres on Nauru and Manus islands.
“Enough is enough,” the ABC quoted her as saying. “We can’t allow this to continue. It’s long past time to put politics aside and work towards a rational, calm, sensible approach that upholds the human rights and human dignity of people who come here seeking asylum.”
Dutton said that Ismail’s comments showed that the opposition is split over border protection and that if they are brought to power in the upcoming elections, it would weaken Australia’s borders.
“This is the problem that Labor has got, because in opposition they promise they’ll stop the boats, and then in government they undo the policies because of internal pressures,” he said.