Claims of mistreatment by Lankan migrants ‘offensive’: Australia

Australia on Wednesday termed as ‘offensive’ the allegations by Sri Lankan asylum-seekers that they were abused by Australian officials before they were handed over to authorities here in a controversial mid-sea transfer.
Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who is on a visit to Sri Lanka, told reporters that he rejects the claims by Sri Lankan migrants that they were badly treated before transfer to Sri Lankan navy. The migrants’ group comprised 37 Sinhalese and four Tamils. ‘I find those allegations offensive and reject them absolutely,’ Morrison said. The controversial mid-sea transfer of the migrants, including four women and nine children, after a mid-sea screening was even criticised by UN refugee agency, UNHCR. They were handed over to Sri Lankan navy on Sunday. Australia’s hardline policy on asylum-seekers has of late come under international scrutiny. The migrants claim they were not asked any questions during the screening process and were merely asked to go back and that they were served food well past their expiry dates.
No medicines were given to them, the migrants claim.
Morrison even praised the handing over of the migrants. ‘The message to anyone who is thinking that they can get to Australia illegally by boat is that the way is closed.’  Sri Lanka says many of the asylum-seekers are economic migrants, but rights groups say Tamils, ethnic minority in Sri Lanka, seek asylum to prevent torture and violence by the military following the nearly three-decade-old civil war with the Tamil Tigers.


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