Tony Abbott with Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse and his wife
Escorted by the Australian Navy, the 41 hopefuls who set sail for Australia in a leaky boat are now safely back home. They were transferred to a Sri Lankan Navy vessel yesterday. A second boat carrying 153 asylum seekers is thought to have set out from India, but so far, its fate is unknown.
According to Mr Morrison, 37 of the returned asylum seekers were from the Sinhalese majority and four were Tamil Sri Lankan nationals. Only one Sinhalese passed screening but chose to return to Sri Lanka with the others after being told he would be sent to Manus Island for processing. All the rest were deemed by Immigration Officials to be economic refugees.
The minister took advantage of the plan first introduced by Labor in 2012 where asylum seekers are processed at sea and if found to be economic refugees, returned to point of origin.
Out of work human rights lawyers and refugee groups have come down hard on Scott Morrison for refusing to release information about asylum seekers but the minister insists that a blanket ban on outcomes is essential to put the people smugglers out of business.
Because no asylum seekers have arrived on Australian soil since the Abbott government took office, two Northern Territory detention centres are about to close, another in the Adelaide Hills will close by the end of the year and two sites on Christmas Island.