Canberra, May 6 (IANS) Australian authorities deported to Sri Lanka a group of asylum seekers who were intercepted earlier this week near the Coco Islands in the Indian Ocean, sources said on Friday.
However, the immigration ministry declined to comment on what it called an “operational matter” or reveal the exact number of people deported, which is between 12 and 15.
Inhabitants of te Coco Islands said the group departed Thursday night on a chartered flight a few days after arriving in a boat, the first documented asylum seeker boat to arrive in Australia in almost two years, EFE news reported.
In 2001, Australia began its practice of mandatory detention of undocumented immigrants, who were trying to reach Australian shores, to third countries, which was interrupted for two years during the Labour government of then prime minister Kevin Rudd, who in 2013 toughened the country’s immigration policy and banned refugees from setting foot on Australian territory.
Many of the immigrants that Australia intercepts have fled conflict-ridden countries or regions like Afghanistan, Darfur, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria, or have escaped conditions of discrimination or statelessness such as the minority Rohingyas in Myanmar or the Biduns in the Persian Gulf.