Joint effort to halt illegal migration | Daily News


Head of Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders calls for:

Joint effort to halt illegal migration

Head of Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders, Major General Craig Furini
Head of Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders, Major General Craig Furini

The Head of Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders, Major General Craig Furini AMCSC who arrived in Sri Lanka called upon Sri Lankans to join in efforts to warn of the dangers and long-term consequences of illegal migration attempts by boat.

Speaking at a press conference in Negombo organised by the Australian High Commission in Colombo, Major General Furini said, “There is a zero chance of illegal migration to Australia. An illegal boat journey is as pointless as it is dangerous.”

“Australia’s border protection remains strong and unchanged and we want Sri Lankans to know that and help get this message out,” he added.

This is Major Furini’s second visit, the first having been in June at the launch of the ‘Zero Chance campaign’.

“Today, we are in Negombo Harbour in light of the recent increase in the number of boats coming illegally to Australia. Nobody who comes illegally by boat will be able to settle in Australia,” he warned. In the period from 2008 to 2013, 50,000 people came illegally by boat in 800 separate boat journeys and 1,200 people died at sea,” he revealed.

The press conference was held under the patronage of High Commissioner David Holly, Sri Lanka’s Navy Director General of Operations, Rear Admiral Atigala and Commander Jason Williams Manager, National Responsive Operations of the Australian Federal Police.

The Negombo jetty served as the backdrop for the press conference and the Australian High Commissioner explained, “in the issue of human smuggling, this place is a part of its source,” thus adding more effect to the message conveyed by Major Furini.

“We won’t stop our efforts to make sure people across Sri Lanka understand that illegal maritime travel is just not worth a risk to their lives or the financial burden and I am hopeful that Sri Lankans can help to get that message across,” said Major Furini, making his appeal to the Sri Lankan public.

“Our best form of defence is to work with the partners, in particular with the Sri Lankan Government to deter and disrupt people smuggling at source, stopping people from getting into the boats in the first place and risking their lives. This is why we are here to identify how we can do more together with other agencies; the Sri Lankan Navy, coast guards, police, fisheries and other security agencies,” he explained.

“Since the establishment of Operation Sovereign Borders in September 2013, Australia has worked with Sri Lanka to return 204 people from 12 people-smuggling boats with no one successfully making the journey to Australia. Records show 25 other individuals from two vessels were returned to Sri Lanka in May 2019 and another five people in June 2019. Added to this, 41 were rescued by the Sri Lankan Navy in the mid-Indian Ocean,” he said.

“In June 2019, the Australian Government launched the ‘Zero Chance’ campaign to dissuade potential illegal immigrants from joining people-smuggling ventures by informing them of Australia’s strong policies and the dangers of illegal migration to Australia by sea. The campaign has seen TV, radio, press and digital advertising carrying the message across Sri Lanka,” he said.

However, the illegal boats appear to continue unabated. Last month, 13 illegal immigrants were promptly returned to Sri Lanka after Australian authorities intercepted a people-smuggling vessel.

In a major effort to get the Sri Lankans involved in the joint operation to combat this issue, Major General Furini announced topping up of the ‘Zero Chance’ campaign with Australia’s intention to host a film festival, where Sri Lankans will have the opportunity to submit short films about the dangers and consequences of attempting illegal maritime migration. He said he hopes the current and aspiring filmmakers will complement the on-going campaign efforts. (C.M.)


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