Amnesty International condemns the Australian Government’s silence around the whereabouts of two asylum seeker boats intercepted separately in Australian waters over the past few days, and said to have been handed over to the Sri Lankan navy.

"Secrecy around border security just won’t cut it," said Amnesty International Australia’s Refugee Spokesperson Graeme McGregor. "The Australian public have a right to know what has happened to these people, despite the Immigration Minister's question dodging and denials."

Tamil Sri Lankan asylum seekers

According to media reports, one boat was carrying 153 Tamil Sri Lankan asylum seekers on board from India, while a second boat was reportedly carrying more than 50 Sri Lankan asylum seekers.

"Handing over asylum seekers to the Sri Lankan navy would be in serious breach of the principle of non-refoulement, risking returning potential refugees to torture and death at the hands of their persecutors."

Enhanced screening

In the past, Australia has recognised abuses in Sri Lanka and supported the 2012 and 2013 Human Rights Council resolutions. Tamils, the long persecuted ethnic minority in Sri Lanka, remain at risk of a range of human rights abuses.

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"Reports of processing by tele-conference is a reckless move that denies asylum seekers their right to clearly and fairly make their claim for asylum."

Amnesty International has been closely monitoring the Government’s policy of ‘enhanced screening,’ which dismisses due process of certain groups of asylum seekers, including Tamils and Vietnamese.

"Enhanced screening is a deeply flawed and discriminatory system that shows how far the Government is willing to go to put its political record before the lives of men, women and children.

"We urge the Australian Government to allow these asylum seekers their fair claims for protection; failure to do so would be an unlawful breach of our international obligations," said McGregor.

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