Dec 02 (SBS) It's shortly after sunrise on the Jaffna Peninsula in northern Sri Lanka, and Anthonippillai Tharshan is returning after several hours at sea.
He set out around midnight to bring back a catch of small fish and crabs to sell at local markets.
It's an honest living and one that he's grateful for given the tumultuous events of his life.
Like thousands of others, in the aftermath of Sri Lanka's civil war, Anthonippillai decided to board an asylum seeker boat bound for Australia in 2012.
He spent 21 days onboard with little food and water before ending up in immigration detention for six months in Australia.
"I was in Christmas Island for 15 days. After that I was transferred to detention centres in Darwin and in Queensland," he tells SBS News.
He says that when he left, the Jaffna Peninsula and its predominantly Tamil people were still recovering from decades of war.
Sri Lanka's civil war raged for 26 years and was fought between Tamil separatists demanding their own state and government troops seeking to quash the rebellion.
Both sides were accused of human rights abuses, including the indiscriminate killing of civilians, enforced disappearances and the use of child soldiers.
The war finally ended in 2009, when government military offensives obliterated the Tamil Tigers in the rebel-held north and east of Sri Lanka.
Like many others in his situation, Anthonipillai doesn't want to talk about why he left Sri Lanka. Fear of harassment and persecution by security forces is still widespread among Tamils, a decade since the end of the war.
But he recalls fondly the two years he spent living and working in an abattoir in regional New South Wales while in community detention.
"I worked hard during the week, and enjoyed weekends off. We had good jobs."
But his relief to be in Australia was short-lived.
After working at the abattoir for a year, his refugee application was rejected by the Australian government. Anthonippillai appealed the decision, but the application was rejected a second time.
After that, his right to work in Australia was cut off, so too any access to welfare payments. In 2015, he says he was given 28 days to leave the country.
"They stopped us from working. After that, the government didn't give us money to buy food," he says.
"With no money, we didn't know what to do. So I had to make the decision to return."
Sent back by Australia
In this part of the world, stories of failed attempts to build a new life in Australia are not difficult to find.
In a roadside shack near the town of Mullaitivu, Subramaniyam Mahendran tells SBS News he escaped a refugee camp in the post-war years and travelled to Australia by boat in 2012.
"[During the civil war] so many people suffered and died from my area. They lost their children, they lost their parents," he says.
He boarded a 40-foot boat with about 80 other asylum seekers.