Australia fears people smugglers still operating in Sri Lanka

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton ruled out any softening of Australia’s policy, telling Parliament Australia will not deviate because the people smugglers are still there in Indonesia, and in Sri Lanka and Vietnam and elsewhere trying to put syndicates together to put people on to boats, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. The study by Save the Children and UNICEF asserts the policy is inflicting incalculable harm on asylum seekers, especially children; straining bilateral relationships; and damaging Australia’s bid for a seat on the United Nation’s Human Rights Council.It calls on the Turnbull Government to commit to a timeline for resettling those on Nauru and Manus Island, legislate against the detention of children and revoke the ban on resettling refugees who arrived in Indonesia after July 1 2014. The study estimates the cost of keeping around 2000 asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island and Nauru at $400,000 per person, compared with just $33,000 for those on bridging visas in the Australian community. Australia fears people smugglers are still operating in Sri Lanka and so the policy on asylum seekers will not be softened.The cost of stopping asylum boats by Australia has been calculated at more than $9.6 billion since 2013, and will be another $5.7 billion over the next four years, according to a study by Save the Children and UNICEF. Pressing the case for a regional protection framework, it also recommends an increase in Australia’s refugee intake and the phasing out of turning back boats to Indonesia, which is says exposes asylum seekers to potential danger at sea and further harm.With a report to be launched by the Human Rights Commission on Wednesday, the study increases the pressure on Malcolm Turnbull to end the ordeal of those in limbo. Turnbull will fly to New York next week to attend a summit called by President Obama on refugees. (Courtesy Colombo Gazette)