SYDNEY, 2 Sep. (Reuters / EP) –
The Australian Army has intercepted a vessel from Sri Lanka with 13 asylum seekers on board, Interior Minister Peter Dutton reported Monday.
“That is why Sri Lanka was the first country I visited after the elections, to ensure that we can stop those ships,” Dutton said during an interview with the newspaper 'The Courier Mail'.
Dutton has also pointed out that the ship – which has been intercepted in front of the Cocos Islands – is the 13th vessel from Sri Lanka that tries to reach Australia with asylum seekers on board in the last 18 months. “It is a very real threat,” Dutton said.
Under the harsh immigration policy of Canberra, those potential asylum seekers who are intercepted at sea will be returned to the country from which the ship in which they are traveling has sailed.
However, those who arrive in Australia are sent to detention centers in Papua New Guinea or Nauru Island, where they are held under conditions that have been criticized numerous times by various organizations, including the United Nations.
Although thousands of people have protested so that asylum seekers from Sri Lanka can stay in Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said they cannot stay because a “so-called effect” could occur.
Christmas Island, which is located about 1,550 kilometers from mainland Australia, has reopened a detention center this year after 10 years of closure.