SL, Australia to strengthen cooperation to counter people smuggling

Sri Lanka and Australia have re-dedicated themselves to counter people smuggling and discussed in detail avenues for strengthening cooperation to address the recent escalation of the number of people-smuggling ventures from Sri Lanka to Australia since May 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a release.

Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha expressed Sri Lanka’s fullest support to Australia in curtailing human-smuggling operations originating from Sri Lankan shores, at a meeting held with a delegation for countering people-smuggling and human-trafficking led by Commander of Australia’s Joint Task Force, Operation Sovereign Borders, Major General Craig Furini on Tuesday (03).

The Foreign Secretary also stressed the need to jointly develop sustainable and long-term strategies including targeted campaigns to change the public perception and to educate Sri Lankans on the risks involved in irregular migration.

Major General Furini noted that with the setting up of ‘Operation Sovereign Borders Policy’ in September 2013, there has been “zero chance” in reaching Australia by boat, as all illegal migrants by sea have been returned to their countries of origin. He added that they wish to develop mechanisms to address the root cause of the issue to effectively respond to people-smuggling.

The Australian Delegation, which also included High Commissioner of Australia to Sri Lanka, David Holly, Australia’s Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking, Bryce Hutchesson and Manager, National Response Operations of the Australian Federal Police Commander, Jason Williams, thanked the Government of Sri Lanka for its continued cooperation to counter illegal migration.

Sri Lanka and Australia have a solid partnership which has been successful in combating people smuggling and transnational border crime. Sri Lanka continues to provide valuable support to Australia in combating people smuggling.

The Joint Working Group on People Smuggling and Transnational Crime (JWG) between Sri Lanka and Australia, which is the principal forum to address people-smuggling and human-trafficking cooperation, was last held on 17 October 2018 in Sri Lanka. The next round of the JWG will be held in Canberra, on 11 October 2019.

Director General, East Asia, South East Asia & Oceania, Damayanthie Rajapakse, Director General of International Security and Counter Terrorism, Himalee Arunatilaka, Acting Director General of Public Diplomacy Division, Ruwanthi Delpitiya, Assistant Legal Advisor, Sanjika Kammanankada and relevant officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were associated with the Foreign Secretary during the talks.