Australian Government defers processing of Sri Lankan, Afghan asylum claims

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Canberra, Apr 9 (ANI): Australia has suspended the issue of immigration claims to Sri Lankan and Afghan shelter seekers.

"The decision has been made in the light of changing circumstances in both Afghanistan and Sri Lanka," said Immigration Minister Chris Evans.

"The likelihood of people being refused visas and being returned safely to their homelands will increase," added Evans.

The suspension has been put into practice with immediate effect.

The government is expected to assess the situation in Sri Lanka after three months and in Afghanistan after a period of six months.

"The government would continue processing claims from those already on Christmas Island or on the way there, and that all "irregular' maritime arrivals would continue to be taken to Christmas Island, where people would be treated humanely," said Senator Evans.

Evans, however, did not speculate what impact the suspension might have on those boats arriving in Australian territory.

The government has sent a stern message to those seeking to employ smugglers and that they may be returned to their country of origin.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Sri Lanka was a country in transition, following its recent parliamentary election.

"That evolution is the basis of the Government's decision to suspend processing so far as new asylum seekers from Sri Lanka is concerned," said Smith.

Smith said a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees review had also been taken into account.

Australian Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said the government's new approach to fighting smugglers would be the creation of a so-called 'criminal intelligence fusion centre'.

"Stronger regulation is needed to ensure more reliable financial intelligence," said Connor.

The government has also proposed an inclusive regulatory regime for transfer of funds, which would be implemented in consultation with the financial services sector.

The Australian Government made the declaration after the interception of a boat, carrying 70 asylum seekers, near Christmas Island last night came into its notice.

All the passengers were rescued from the vessel, after a distress call was issued that the boat's engine had failed.

This was the 38th boat to have arrived in Australian water this year.

The new strategies adopted by the government also followed the concerns of a United Nations official, who said the governments needed new solutions to deal with 'out of control' people smuggling as thousands of asylum seekers try to reach Australia via Indonesia.

United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Indonesia Manuel Jordao said that a large number of almost 4000 asylum seekers on the UNHCR's books in the archipelago would attempt to reach Australia by boat, rather than wait for resettlement via official channels. (ANI)

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