Sri Lanka migrants angry with Australia

2014-07-08 15:37
Royal Australian Navy's Adelaide class guided-missile frigate, the HMAS Melbourne, at the Garden Island Naval Dockyard near Sydney. (Greg Wood, AFP)

Royal Australian Navy's Adelaide class guided-missile frigate, the HMAS Melbourne, at the Garden Island Naval Dockyard near Sydney. (Greg Wood, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Galle - Sri Lankan migrants aboard a boat that was controversially turned back mid-sea by Australia slammed Canberra on Tuesday, claiming they were abused, given little food and water and treated "worse than dogs".

The group of 41 migrants, including four women and nine children, appeared in a court in the southern Sri Lankan city of Galle, where most were granted bail on charges of illegally leaving the country.

As anxious relatives waited outside the colonial-era building, magistrate Umesh Kalansuriya granted bail to 27 of the group, remanded five into custody and discharged the children.

Some of the women, one carrying a baby and clutching their children's hands, wept as police told the magistrate that the group had broken immigration laws, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of two years.

Australia has come under fire over the transfer, with experts warning that repelling migrants after screening them as potential asylum-seekers at sea appeared to be inadequate under international law.

Some of the migrants, most of whom were from Sri Lanka's majority Sinhalese community, told AFP they had been trying to get to New Zealand rather than Australia where they hoped they could find work.

LA Nilantha accused Australian customs officials of locking them up and giving them little food and water after they were picked up at sea by the Australian navy.

"They gave me a phone to speak with someone I did not know," said Nilantha, a former shop owner. "I could not understand the language and the line was also very bad. I never had an opportunity to tell them what I wanted."

Go back to Sri Lanka

Another migrant said they were racially abused and denied medication, while some attempted a hunger strike to protest their treatment.

"They kept on saying 'You fucking Sri Lankan, go back to fucking Sri Lanka'," the migrant, who declined to give his name, said.

"When I asked for medicine for a rash I had developed after boarding the boat, they said they could not help."

Another unnamed passenger said they were given food past their expiry date adding "they treated us worse than dogs".

Migrant Bhamith Caldera said he would "complain to the UN" over his treatment and denied that he had been screened as a possible asylum seeker.

"They never asked any questions. They just wanted us to go back," he said, declining to answer if he believed he had a case for asylum. "They treated us very badly."

"When women were down with fever, they were just given water," he added. "We were starved. Where is Australia's human rights?"

Some relatives of the group told AFP that the boat was meant to go to Australia rather than New Zealand, with the confusion perhaps a result of the people smugglers who have been known to mislead migrants about their final destination.

Sinhalese

The returned migrants were earlier escorted by plain-clothed police officers in the court after spending a night in the notorious Boossa detention centre.

The complex has a reputation for torture and is used as a high-security centre for those detained on terrorism-related offences.

"We will individually register them and the magistrate will decide a course of action," a court official told AFP on condition of anonymity ahead of their court appearance.

Most of the group were Sinhalese, with only four from the minority Tamil community, whose members have faced persecution as a result of a separatist war that ended in 2009, the court was told.

The five remanded in custody were suspected of organising the illegal boat trip, with one a member of the country's elite police commando unit, the court was told.

The five will return to court later this month, while the rest were bailed until May next year.

The group was brought ashore at Galle, 115km south of the capital, and taken to Boossa on Monday.

Sri Lanka's navy spokesperson Kosala Warnakulasooriya said on Monday that the 41 were taken into custody in "deep waters off the southeastern coast of Sri Lanka," but gave no further details.

An Australian court temporarily halted the transfer of a second boatload of 153 mainly ethnic Tamil asylum-seekers from being handed back to Sri Lanka.

Lawyers acting for some of the 153 took their case to the High Court, arguing a transfer would be illegal and they should not be returned against their will.

Australia's immigration minister is due in Sri Lanka on Wednesday to meet top officials and hand over a patrol boat gifted to Sri Lanka.

Read more on:    sri lanka  |  new zealand  |  australia  |  refugees
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
13 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Tuesday Mitchells Plain - 19:35 PM
    Road name: M7 Vanguard Drive
    ROADWORKS - traffic restrictions between the R300 and Highlands Drive - expect delays
  • Tuesday Belhar - 17:58 PM
    Road name: Belhar Drive
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Alabama Drive
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 9360

The BlackBerry Curve 9360 smartphone comes preloaded with Blackberry OS7...

From R1455.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Something may come up to alert you of your security needs. It may be that you need to create a better structure for your finances...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.