• Last Update 2022-12-03 08:01:00

Australia-Sri Lanka – a gold standard partnership that stands the test of time


Rear Admiral Justin Jones CSC RAN, Commander of the Joint Agency  Task Force Operation Sovereign Borders and Lucienne Manton, Australia’s People Smuggling and Human Trafficking Ambassador recently travelled to Sri Lanka for a number of high level and working  level meetings. They summarise their trip and recent engagements  with their Sri Lankan counterparts.

Great friendships are built upon a bedrock of trust, shared values and providing support to one  another. Such was the case during our visit to Sri Lanka from 30 August to 1 September – a trip that  reaffirmed the deep ties that exist between our two countries, forged 75 years ago. It is a  relationship that has grown from strength to strength. As a long-standing friend, Australia is  supporting Sri Lanka in its time of need, providing A$75 million to meet urgent food and healthcare  challenges. 

As Indian Ocean neighbours we share profound personal links. Australia’s Sri Lankan diaspora is  vibrant. Sri Lankan students brighten our university campuses. In June and July our cricketing rivalry  was on show across this island. There will be a chance to settle the score this Australian summer. 

Our visit to Sri Lanka earlier this month reinforced our resolve to face challenges together. We  reiterated Australia’s commitment to work with Sri Lanka to combat transnational organised crime  such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, piracy, terrorism, and people smuggling.  Sri Lanka and Australia have a proven partnership to deter, disrupt, intercept and return any boat  attempting to illegally cross borders. We do this to prevent the loss of life at sea, risk to the  livelihoods of innocent people and to stamp out the criminal people smuggling trade.

Since May 2022, Australian authorities have returned a number of Sri Lankan nationals attempting  irregular maritime migration to Australia. This is in addition to the superb work of the Sri Lankan  Navy in disrupting more than 900 people from making a similar irregular migration attempt to  Australia in the same period.

Every Sri Lankan people smuggling boat that has entered Australian waters since October 2013 has  been stopped, and all those on board returned to Sri Lanka. Sadly, all have wasted hard earned  savings for nothing and face legal proceedings upon return to Sri Lanka. 

Our visit also provided an opportunity to meet with local community leaders to reinforce Australia’s  unchanged border protection policies. The discussions were a timely reminder for everyone – do not fall for the tricks of people smugglers. Australia’s border protection policies have not and will not  change. Those who try to come without a valid visa will be caught and returned to Sri Lanka where legal consequences await. In other words, if you choose this irregular, dangerous and futile method  of migration, you will never be able to settle in Australia.

We are committed to deepening our cooperation with Sri Lanka as we work together to face shared  challenges and achieve our shared goals. Whether it’s supporting economic reforms or  strengthening our border security pact, this is a partnership that stands the test of time.


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