The Sri Lanka Navy denied media reports that the Australian government had handed over 153 Tamil asylum seekers (who had attempted to migrate to Australia illegally) to the Sri Lanka Navy a few weeks ago.
“We have no record of having received any Tamil asylum seekers from the Australian Government recently,” said Navy spokesman Kosala Warnakulasuriya.
Australian media had reported that the Australian government was refusing to comment on reports circulating on Christmas Island that 153 Tamil asylum seekers had been handed over to the Sri Lanka Navy.
According to a website, the president of the Shire of Christmas Island had said the asylum seekers (who have not communicated with civilians since Saturday morning) had been on a boat intercepted by the Australian navy near Christmas Island and then been handed over to Sri Lanka’s military.
Refugee advocates had lost contact with the boat on Saturday morning sparking fears that the phone on board the boat had been confiscated.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the government’s policy was that it did not confirm nor otherwise comment on reports of on-water activities in relation to Operation Sovereign Borders.
But human rights lawyers who have been desperately trying to contact the asylum seekers said they were profoundly concerned over the plight of these people which remains shrouded secrecy. (Chaturanga Pradeep)