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Sri Lankan migrants arrive in Australia after Anthony Albanese comes to power for Labor


Sri Lankan migrants are heading to Australia in the belief that they will be welcome now that Anthony Albanese’s Labor government has taken power.

Since the May 21 election, three boats carrying migrants have landed in Australian territory after a period of two years without any attempt to arrive illegally.

The migrants on the third boat, who were repatriated to Sri Lanka on Saturday as part of Operation Sovereign Borders, revealed that smugglers convinced them to make the journey due to the change in government.

Nadesalingam and Priya Murugappan fled Sri Lanka after the country’s civil war, arriving separately on smuggler ships in 2012 and 2013. The couple met in Australia, married in 2014 and obtained temporary visas to settling in Biloela, where they had two daughters, Kopika, six, and Tharunicaa, four (pictured with Anthony Albanese)

One woman, Meenu Mekala, told The Australian: “We were told that a new refugee-friendly government had been elected and that we would not be sacked.

She revealed she had spent $2,000 on the illegal trip, adding: “It was such a difficult trip that we took…I wouldn’t have taken it if I had known we would be fired like this. “

Sri Lanka is in the throes of an economic crisis with food and fuel shortages pushing some residents who can afford it to seek a new life abroad.

Labor has said it will continue to remove anyone who arrives illegally by boat as part of the military operation set up under former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Home Secretary Clare O’Neil – who has yet to comment on the boat arrivals – is in Sri Lanka this week for high-level talks with the government which has called for Australian aid including fertiliser, food and medicine.

Shadow Home Secretary Karen Andrews has told Daily Mail Australia that more and more illegal immigrants are making the treacherous sea voyage now that Labor is in power.

Sri Lankan migrants arrive in Australia after Anthony Albanese comes to power for Labor

Sri Lanka is in the throes of an economic crisis with food and fuel shortages pushing some residents who can afford it to seek a new life abroad. Pictured: the capital, Colombo

Sri Lankan migrants arrive in Australia after Anthony Albanese comes to power for Labor

Karen Andrews said more and more illegal immigrants are making the treacherous sea voyage in the belief that the new Labor government will be softer and more welcoming than the Coalition

During the election campaign, the ALP pledged to abolish temporary protection visas to give migrants arriving by boat permanent protection.

Then, in one of his first steps after coming to power, he allowed a Sri Lankan family who had been battling eviction for years to return to the Queensland town of Biloela, where they is settled while his legal battle continues.

Ms Andrews said since Labor came to power, smugglers have been “encouraged” to sell trips from Sri Lanka to Australia.

Setters now have enough cheers

Karen Andrews, Shadow Home Secretary

“The Coalition has consistently said smugglers are watching, particularly during elections,” she told Daily Mail Australia.

“Smugglers now have enough incentive to continue selling false dreams to trick people into buying illegal travel.”

Ms Andrews – who served as Home Secretary in the Morrison government – said Labor’s softer approach would cause even more human misery.

“This means a greater likelihood of death at sea as our detention centers are filled with illegal arrivals and a higher cost to the taxpayer,” she said.

‘The number of boats we have seen so far is a clear demonstration that the Labor Government has no solution to their running of Operation Sovereign Borders.’

Ahead of the election, Ms Andrews said Labor’s plan to scrap Temporary Protection Visas would undo a key pillar of Operation Sovereign Borders which was implemented to stop the boats in 2013.

Sri Lankan migrants arrive in Australia after Anthony Albanese comes to power for Labor

Several boats including this one were stopped by the Sri Lankan navy as they left the country

Sri Lankan migrants arrive in Australia after Anthony Albanese comes to power for Labor

Demonstrators shout slogans during an anti-government protest rally in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Thursday. The country is in economic crisis, which could lead to more emigration

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has insisted he will continue to turn away boats in line with policy.

In addition to the three boats that arrived in Australia, several boats were detained by the Sri Lankan Navy as they left the country.

An Australian Border Force spokesman said: ‘The Department does not comment on operational matters.’

Experts say more people will try to leave Sri Lanka as it suffers its worst economic crisis since 1948.

Abul Rizvi, a former deputy secretary at Australia’s immigration department, said it was ‘reasonable to suspect’ that economic difficulties in Sri Lanka and curiosity about the position of the new government were the reasons for the boat arrivals.

Sri Lankan migrants arrive in Australia after Anthony Albanese comes to power for Labor

The third boat to arrive was intercepted off Australia’s Cocos Islands territory in the Indian Ocean

“The smugglers want to test the new government and they have more than enough people who are in dire straits to want to participate,” he told Nine Newspapers.

Sri Lanka is at risk of sliding into a full-scale humanitarian crisis as the country’s economy suffers its biggest shock in decades, the UN humanitarian office said on Friday.

The country’s 22 million people are suffering from the country’s worst financial crisis in seven decades, with severe shortages of fuel, medicine and other essentials amid record inflation and devaluation of its currency.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency in May, after a day of anti-government strikes and protests against the worsening crisis.

This comes amid rising oil prices and populist tax cuts by President Rajapaksa.

Sri Lankan migrants arrive in Australia after Anthony Albanese comes to power for Labor

A woman moves a tank of petrol as she queues to buy another amid the economic crisis in Colombo, Sri Lanka

What is Operation Sovereign Borders?

Operation Sovereign Borders is an army-led border security operation that was established in 2013 to deter illegal arrivals to Australian shores.

The hardline policy implemented by Tony Abbott’s coalition government adopts a ‘zero tolerance’ stance towards asylum seekers traveling on smugglers’ ships.

Boats will either be turned back, set on fire or seized with those on board sent home or processed in offshore detention centres.

The current Commander of Operation Sovereign Borders is Rear Admiral Justin Jones, who was appointed in February 2022.

Australia’s strict policy has been criticized by human rights groups, with some opponents calling it illegal.

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