A Sri Lankan boat is intercepted by the Australian Navy in 2017.
A Sri Lankan boat is intercepted by the Australian Navy in 2017.

Dutton’s warning as more boats detected

PEOPLE smugglers have sent up to six boats carrying scores of Sri Lankan asylum seekers to Australia, with fears more will be launched, sparking Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to fly to the country for high-level talks.

Mr Dutton, who arrived in Sri Lanka yesterday, will meet with the country's Prime Minister and President today to send a strong message to people smugglers that the Morrison Government remains in power and will not back away from Operation Sovereign Borders.

Mr Dutton's office would not comment on the matter last night and The Courier-Mail could not confirm the location of the boats last night. However, it is likely boats would be in Indian Ocean and heading for the northwest coast.

It is understood the latest asylum seekers detected by intelligence agencies left during the Federal election campaign and just days after the sickening Easter Bombing attacks that decimated hotels and churches.

Australia remains concerned about volatility in the region and Mr Dutton will work with Sri Lankan authorities on counter terrorism and develop greater co-operation ties.

 

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton inspects St. Sebastian's church, one of the sites of Easter Sunday attacks in Negombo, Sri Lanka. Picture: AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton inspects St. Sebastian's church, one of the sites of Easter Sunday attacks in Negombo, Sri Lanka. Picture: AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena

 

"That was always the prediction: that a Labor government, given that Mr Shorten had walked away from Operation Sovereign Borders during the election campaign, that they were always going to be tested.

"So I want people smugglers and those that might be organising syndicates here in Australia to hear the message from me very clearly, that is that we do have a return arrangement with Sri Lanka and with other countries and people will be returned as quickly as possible."

Yesterday, Mr Dutton offered his condolences for the more than 250 people who died in the attacks, including Australian dual citizens Manik Suriaaratchi and her 10-year-old daughter Alexendria.

"We have worked very closely with our Sri Lankan counterparts through the High Commissioner … to provide support to the Sri Lankan people and to the Sri Lankan Government,'' Mr Dutton said yesterday at St Sebastian's in Negombo, one of the churches targeted by the co-ordinated attacks.

"There's a very special bond between Sri Lanka and Australia and that's been long standing.

"All of us condemn any act of violence regardless of the perpetrator's religion, regardless of their background, to commit an evil act, particularly in a place of worship, has a special level of indecency about it."



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