Foreign Minister Bob Carr today announced a four-point plan to fight people-smuggling – to be discussed with Sri Lankan government and naval authorities and including increased on-water co-operation, intelligence sharing and reducing incentives for smuggling ventures.
Senator Carr is in Colombo for the inaugural Joint Working Group on People Smuggling and Transnational Crime, chaired by Sri Lanka's Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
"There is a message from these talks to people in Sri Lanka – by getting on that boat you risk your life, you'll lose your money and you will be sent back home," Senator Carr said.
"We're setting a clear agenda for intelligence sharing, naval co-operation and helping rebuild Sri Lanka – all designed to reduce people smuggling.
"I welcome Sri Lanka's strong support for anti-people smuggling activities, and look forward to increased co-operation in destroying the people smuggling business model."
Senator Carr said today's talks would focus on:
Information and intelligence sharing
- Australia to provide additional surveillance and electronic equipment to expand Sri Lanka's capacity to target smuggling operations and better identify vessel departure times and locations; and
- From 2013, a joint Australia- Sri Lanka training program, held in Australia to enhance Sri Lankan intelligence expertise.
- Strengthening the Sri Lankan navy's on-water disruption capacity including through talks to identify materiel and equipment constraints;
- Australia-based training for Sri Lankan naval officers including in maritime air surveillance; and
- Direct supply of search and rescue equipment to help recovery of passengers from intercepted and unseaworthy vessels.
Sending the message
- $700,000 for campaigns in towns and villages identified as people smuggling hot spots, including word of mouth, radio, television and cinema advertising.
- $45 million over five years under Ausaid's broader Sri Lanka program to build or rebuild poor and rural communities – reducing poverty and helping cut demand for economic migration. Australia is already constructing 5,000 housing units and 23 schools.
Senator Carr thanked his Sri Lankan counterparts for existing co-operation against people smuggling, which had seen 65 smuggling ventures involving 2,900 people disrupted this year, and the involuntary return of more than 700 Sri Lankan people-smuggling clients since August 2012.
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