153 asylum seekers remain at sea

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has refused to comment on the fate of 153 south Asian asylum seekers being held at sea by Australian authorities until the current court case has been resolved. Of those detained on the boat, more than half are believed to have come from a Tamil refugee camp in southern India. Under Indian law, if the refugees left India by illegal means, the country cannot accept them back.

Acting on behalf of refugee advocates and the Tamil Association, solicitor George Newhouse has sought to protect the 153 people claiming to be Tamil refugees. 41 Sri Lankan asylum seekers were returned by Australia to Sri Lanka on Monday.

“What I’m saying is that any other ventures that are the subject of matters before the Australian courts are matters that we will address in those courts and we have always maintained a very strong process for how we manage communications regarding our operations,” Mr Morrison said.

“That communication protocol has been put in place by Lieutenant-General Campbell, who heads the joint agency taskforce in Australia that has command over these matters. As the minister of the government, I’m going to adhere to those protocols because they have been very important to the success of those operations.” Mr Morrison said.

“And to the various obligations that we have under the various conventions of which we are a signatory to and the Australian Government rejects any suggestions that we have acted contrary to any of those obligations that we have,” Mr Morrison said.

Read more from The Australian.
Read more from The Age.

Opinion: Return to sender

If the speculation rings true, the Australian Government are looking to send the 153 Tamil asylum seekers back into the hands of their persecutors. Judging by the actions of the Government on Monday in handing over 41 Sri Lankan asylum seekers, it’s safe to assume a similar approach will be taken with the 153 currently being held.

This Coalition Government, a government I and a majority of Australians voted for, has reached a new low over the past week in their handling of this situation. The lack of information provided to the voters of Australia is appalling. To suggest that operations could be compromised by disclosing information is hard to believe and the suggestion of sending asylum seekers back into the hands of those they are fleeing is disgusting.

Regardless of whether the 153 asylum seekers arrived in our waters, we have an obligation to ensure they are returned to a safe environment and if that can’t occur, re-located appropriately.

What do you think? Should the government be providing the public with more information on the matter? Should the 153 asylum seekers be returned to the country from which they fled?