LTTE cohorts in Australia encourage asylum seekers - Controller
General of I&E
The Immigration and Emigration Controller General Chulananda Perera
says a significant proportion of unlawful migrants from Sri Lanka to
Australia constitute the relatives of successful asylum seekers already
Statistically speaking, he says, this figure outnumbers the economic
migrants who show up on Australian shores demanding jobs.
In an interview with the Sunday Observer on the issue of Sri Lankan
boat people to Australia which has become one of the biggest
controversies in Australia in recent history, the Controller General
said that the European countries, the initial target of bogus asylum
seekers and economic migrants, tackled the issue strategically once the
threat was identified.
"Europe took a decision to give priority to their citizens when it
came to employment. The decision by the EU to ban the LTTE too had a
monumental effect. Their deteriorating economic stability during the
recession may also have contributed. Hence, the human smugglers, who
earlier took full advantage of the terrorist situation to pack human
cargo to Europe shifted their focus elsewhere," he said.
Sri Lanka, following discussions with Australian State officials, is
on the verge of bringing in sweeping changes to the existing Immigration
and Emigration Act to completely overhaul the current laws and deter
human smugglers. The amended laws are expected to come into effect by
April next year.
The excerpts of the interview:
Human smuggling is one of the components of irregular migration, this
can be via air or sea. Earlier the trend was to go to Europe - Italy,
Germany and France by air, on fraudulent passports and by other means.
We introduced so many measures to mitigate and combat this type of
irregular movement. One of the measures included online connectivity
with the foreign border control officers.
Now a forged passport from Sri Lanka cannot go through any approved
airport. We have also established a documentation laboratory, to verify
the passports and visas issued anywhere in the world for their
authenticity. This was financed by the Australian Government.
We are closely working with Regional Airline Liaison Officers Network
(RYLON). Sri Lanka is one of the co-chairs of RYLON. We share
information, do capacity building, and as a result of joint cooperation
certain agreements were reached on how to manage irregular migration by
Human smuggling is often irregular movement by sea. According to the
Sri Lankan Immigration and Emigration Act, a person leaving the country
by any other means, than an approved air or sea port is violating the
country's immigration laws. It constitutes a criminal offence. It could
be that when we shut the gate on unlawful migration via air, smugglers
resorted to cheap sea-migration.
Illegal migrants from Sri Lanka first flowed to Europe. But no sooner
the EU identified the developing threat, the European block took up some
collective decisions, one was to give priority to their citizens when it
came to employment.
Another important move was the decision to ban the LTTE. The
deteriorating economic stability during the recession too had an effect.
Hence, the human smugglers, who earlier took full advantage of the
terrorist situation to pack human cargo to Europe shifted their focus
Earlier the trend was for Tamil speaking people from the Northern and
the Eastern provinces to flee to Australia in rickety boats. They took
advantage of the unstable situation in the North of the country. But
later people from other areas too joined in the perilous journey, lured
in by the human smugglers.
There are many factors why people get on boats to Australia. The
country is yet to proscribe the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. And it
has lax immigration laws. They are a signatory to the Geneva Convention,
which makes it obligatory to welcome asylum seekers. They don't send
them back. Asylum seekers receive good treatment on humanitarian
These are highly desirable conditions for mass scale human smugglers
and prospective bogus claimants. The other reason is the economic
stability in Australia.
The fraudsters dropped Canada as an asylum option following the
introduction of new Immigration Protection Laws which help filter bogus
cases from genuine ones. It was one of the key reasons for the human
smugglers to shift their focus from Canada to Australia.
From the immigration point of view, we have been discussing with the
Australian counterparts since 2009, to amend the Sri Lankan Immigration
and Emigration Act. The proposed amendments will ensure revising 90 per
cent of the existing Act.
The new laws will spell out tougher penalties and incorporate
comprehensive people smuggling provisions, extradition provisions, extra
territorial jurisdiction, fraudulent travel identity document offences,
aggravated forms of people smuggling offences, all of which will give
more teeth to existing legislature and deter people-smuggling.
Following the discussions, we have prepared amendments to revise the
law and the final draft is now with the Legal Draftsman.
Sri Lanka has completed setting up a National Coordination Committee
for Readmission for people who have left the country via illegal means,
or Lankan visitors who have overstayed in foreign countries, or people
who have violated immigration laws of another country, when they get
repatriated. This is the domestic mechanism to verify the bona fides of
their identities and receive them. We have four readmission agreements
with four EU countries which came into effect in 2005.
Under the NCCR three subcommittees; Police Committee, Operations
Committee and Reintegration Committee have been set up. The police, CID,
Public Administration and Foreign Employment Bureau are engaged in these
committees. Our main concern is identification. We have recorded three
incidents where Tamil speaking people from other countries tried to
enter Sri Lanka pretending to be Sri Lankans.
They had been repatriated from UK. This is a continental problem and
we have to be cautious of such acts.The number of flights coming from
Australia per week can sometimes be overwhelming. We have a resource
constraint to clear such a large number of repatriates at once.
The readmission process establishes identification. By the time the
repatriated illegal immigrants arrive at the airport, their identities
would have been verified through relatives or State agencies and a
temporary travel document is issued. This procedure simplifies our work
here.The tentative plan is to effect amendments to the existing law by
April 1.There is also a disturbing trend that the Australian Government
must recognise. Most of the Tamil speaking people who risk their lives
in sea to travel 3,000 kilometres, in perilous conditions want to join
their relatives who had been granted asylum earlier. Many of them have
Other than economic migrants, there is a significant proportion of
such people leaving our shores. They want to reunite with their kith and
kin already living there. It has nothing to do with the situation in Sri
The LTTE linked Tamil diaspora have money to spend for lawyers and
other support activities to argue and secure asylum status for these
people whereas others get repatriated overnight. The human smugglers
take full advantage of this situation.