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Australia verifying asylum claims

2014 Nov 13

Australia is verifying the genuineness of the asylum claims of the 157 Sri Lankan Tamils who had left Puducherry by boat, Australian Consul-General to South India Sean Kelly has said.

The boat was intercepted by Australian authorities in June. The migrants are now lodged in detention centres on Nauru Island in the South Pacific.

“The Australian government has a firm policy on people smuggling. It is not possible to enter Australia illegally,” Mr. Kelly told reporters on the sidelines of a photo exhibition to mark the Remembrance Day here.

Around 1,200 people were believed to have died in sea while trying to enter Australia in recent years, he said. “If the cases are found to be genuine, the refugees will be resettled on Nauru Island. If not, they will be sent back.”

“It is not that Australia is not welcome to migrants. In fact, Australia is happy to welcome them. However, refugees must come in through proper channels,” Mr. Kelly said.

Incidentally, the United Nations Committee against Torture has raised questions about the treatment of refugees at Australia’s detention centres at a hearing in Geneva this Monday, according to international media reports.

Mr. Kelly said the bilateral relationship was going from strength to strength. After visits, first by the former Defence Minister, A.K. Antony, to Australia in June last year, followed by that of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to India in September this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was due to visit Australia this month.

“These visits symbolise a dramatic improvement in ties. Australia and India have similar views on different issues, including economic growth and business,” he said. While Australian investment in India was around $7 billion in banking, financial services and mining, Indian investment in Australia was close to $11 billion, he said.

On defence cooperation, he said: “There is a lot of scope as the Australian defence industry offers some niche technologies and areas of speciality.”

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