Hey Kristina ..they got the message.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has warned that people-smugglers are “already trying to start up their illegal trade on the eve of an election” after the Sri Lankan navy intercepted a fishing vessel carrying dozens of people on Wednesday. A fishing vessel and two dinghies were stopped by the Sri Lankan navy off the Batticaloa coast earlier this week, with 40 individuals including four people-smugglers apprehended for attempting to “illegally migrate to a foreign country by sea”.
Ms Andrews, who met senior Sri Lankan officials in December about strengthening co-operation to combat people-smugglers, told The Weekend Australian “it’s already starting”.
“Only the Morrison government can keep people-smugglers out of business through our strong stance and consistency on border policy – no one who comes here illegally by boat will ever be allowed to settle in Australia.”
It is understood a “table top” exercise was held last Friday to war-game the readiness of Australia’s response to potential illegal maritime ventures arriving in local waters. The exercise, led by Home Affairs department secretary Mike Pezzullo, included Operation Sovereign Borders, Defence, DFAT and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
After Scott Morrison this week raised concerns about the risks of weaker border security under Labor and people-smugglers resuming operations, the Sri Lankan navy warned local residents to “refrain from risking their lives and property by being caught in the tricks of smugglers who are persuading to proceed to foreign countries by treacherous sea voyages”.
“Subsequent search of the fishing vessel led to the apprehension of a group of 19 who were believed to be on an illegal migration attempt to a foreign country and seizure of the local multiday fishing vessel used for the illegal act,” a navy statement said. “Due to the ramshackle nature of the multi-day fishing vessel and rough sea condition, the fishing vessel has sunken while being towed ashore by P4443. Yet the apprehended group of individuals were safely transferred ashore by the navy.”
A further 21 people were later arrested.