Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison

Refugee advocate slams Sri Lanka boat turn-back

A SUNSHINE Coast refugee advocate says Australia has turned a blind eye to human rights by returning 41 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka.

Bronwyn Bell, from the Buddies refugee support group, said yesterday's High Court hearing testing the legality of Australia's turn-back methods had forced the Federal Government to admit what happened to a boatload of 41 asylum seekers.

"We know now that the government has intercepted this boat ... until (yesterday), we didn't really know, so that's something that's come out of it," she said.

A lawyer for the government told the hearing that the 41 asylum seekers had been intercepted outside of Australia's migration zone.

Ms Bell fears the asylum seekers will be imprisoned in Sri Lanka for leaving the country illegally and will be at risk of torture. She said Sri Lanka had a record for human rights abuses. " Australia is condoning what's happening by working with Sri Lanka and sending asylum seekers back," she said.

The move is part of the Sovereign Borders, a policy led by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Ms Bell said Australia had a responsibility to monitor the welfare of the asylum seekers who had been returned to Sri Lanka.

Dr K.K. Nava, of the Tamil Association of Queensland, also said he would like an assurance from the government the returned asylum seekers would not be persecuted or harmed.

Dr Nava agreed on the need for border protection policies but said the government had a responsibility to properly deal with asylum seekers once it intervened in their passage to Australia.

The High Court hearing will resume on Friday.



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