June 20 (Daily Mail) Sri Lankan migrants are heading for Australia in the belief they will be welcomed now that Anthony Albanese’s Labor government has taken power.
Since the May 21 election, three boats carrying migrants have landed on Australian territory following a two-year period without any attempted illegal arrivals.
Migrants on the third boat, who were flown back to Sri Lanka on Saturday under Operation Sovereign Borders, have revealed people smugglers convinced them to make the trip due to the change of government.
One woman, Meenu Mekala, told The Australian: ‘We were told that there is a new refugee-friendly government elected and we would not be sent back.
She revealed she spent $2,000 for the illegal trip, adding: ‘It was such a hard journey we made… I would not have taken it had I known that we would be sent back like this.’
Sri Lanka is in the grips of an economic crisis with food and fuel shortages pushing some residents who can afford it to seek a new life overseas.
Labor has declared it will continue sending back anyone who arrives illegally by boat under the military operation set up under former PM Tony Abbott.
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil - who is yet to comment on the boat arrivals - is in Sri Lanka this week for high level talks with the government which has called for Australian aid including fertilizer, food and medicine.
Shadow Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has told Daily Mail Australia that more illegal immigrants are making the treacherous sea voyage now that Labor is in power.
During the election campaign, the ALP vowed to remove temporary protection visas to give migrants who arrived by boat permanent protection.
Then, in one of its first moves upon taking power, it allowed a Sri Lankan family who have been fighting deportation for years to return to the Queensland town of Biloela where they settled while their legal battle continues.
Ms Andrews said since Labor came to power people smugglers have been given ‘encouragement’ to sell journeys from Sri Lanka to Australia.