Operation Sovereign Borders deports Sri Lankan asylum seekers back to Colombo from Christmas Island
A plane reportedly took off from Christmas Island overnight en route to Colombo with 45 Sri Lankan asylum seekers and government officials on board in what appeared to be Operation Sovereign Borders.
Many Sri Lankan asylum seekers have reportedly been deported overnight from Australia’s Christmas Island.
Locals on the island told the Australian that they saw refugees being taken to shore from a boat – believed to be part of Operation Sovereign Borders – in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Photos accompanying the publication showed the asylum seekers boarding two minibusses onto a dock before being taken to the airport for deportation.
It is unknown how many refugees there were, but 45 people, including government officials, were on board the plane en route to Colombo.
The aircraft took off shortly after 2 a.m. local time (5 p.m. AEST).
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It is unknown when the boat entered Australian waters, but it is believed to have been intercepted.
The asylum seekers were reportedly held on an Operation Sovereign Borders boat before being taken to Christmas Island.
Shadow Home Secretary Karen Andrews told the publication that the incoming asylum seekers were expected due to a government change.
“I’ve always said people smugglers are watching. And they are clear. This is exactly what the (former) coalition said would happen, and it is happening,” she said.
“The Albanian government urgently needs to explain how it will manage illegal boat arrivals and ensure that people smugglers don’t sell through due to the change of government.”
SkyNews.com.au has contacted the offices of Home Secretary Clare O’Neil and Shadow Home Secretary Karen Andrews.
The deportation comes after another asylum-seeker boat bound for Australia was turned back nearly three weeks ago on May 21 – the day Australians went to the polls to decide the next prime minister.
There were 15 people aboard the ship, which nearly landed before being intercepted off the west coast of Christmas Island.
The Australian Border Force said the boat was likely trying to enter Australia from Sri Lanka and assured the federal government’s policies on people smuggling remain unchanged.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers has maintained that the Labor government is “committed” to Operation Sovereign Borders and said there would be no difference from the approach taken by Morrison’s previous administration.
“Australians know, and the smugglers know, that we remain committed to Operation Sovereign Borders,” he said last month.
“And the activity that has happened in recent days is completely consistent with that.
“And the message we sent to the smugglers is that people should not embark on that dangerous journey because they will be processed the same way after Saturday as before Saturday.”