The former Home Secretary insists that temporary protection visas must remain a message to prevent smugglers and asylum seekers from making the perilous journey to Australia.
Former Home Secretary Karen Andrews has insisted that Labor should maintain temporary protection visas as a “mass message” to deter smugglers and asylum seekers.
Four ships have been intercepted by Border Force and Sri Lankan officials over the past five weeks, with refugees claiming they were told they would not return home under a new government.
The people of Sri Lanka are desperately trying to leave the island, which is going through the worst economic crisis of the last 70 years and has led to shortages of food, fuel and other basic necessities.
Stream more about politics with Flash. 25+ news channels in 1 position. New Flash user? Try 1 month free. The offer expires on October 31, 2022
Home Secretary Clare O’Neil flew to Colombo this week to meet with Sri Lankan leaders to discuss how Australia could help with the humanitarian and economic crisis, as well as how to address the issue of asylum seekers.
The government has pledged $ 50 million in support, including $ 22 million in the World Food Program and $ 23 million in development assistance.
The other $ 5 million was recently donated to the United Nations in Sri Lanka.
But Ms Andrews believes more could be done by the Albanian government to stop other boats from making the perilous voyage.
He emphasized the importance of Operation Sovereign Borders and argued that temporary protection visas should remain in place as a deterrent.
“It’s a huge message to the smugglers to even suggest that they leave and that is the Labor policy in the election,” Andrews told Sky News.
The Labor Party that was highlighted during the Federal Election campaign would abolish temporary protection visas and switch to permanent protection visas if it won the government.
Ms Andrews told First Edition presenter Peter Stefanovic that one of the key pillars of Operation Sovereign Borders is temporary protection visas.
“It’s very important … honestly Labor can not say that things have not changed when they made it very clear that they will end temporary protection visas,” he said.
The former Home Secretary praised Ms O’Neil for making the trip to maintain the relationship between Canberra and Colombo.
“The Labor government has a huge issue to deal with now, which is the launch of vessels coming to Australia, so the relationship with Sri Lanka and the possibility of people returning to Sri Lanka is incredibly important,” she said. Mr Andrews.
Stefanovic asked Andrews if he would support a legal increase in immigration from Sri Lanka to Australia to start immigration.
Ms Andrews said there was an “opportunity” to look at attracting skilled migrants to fill the skills gap, but there are legal channels that do not pose a risk to their lives.
“Of course we have to look at where we can get these people from and make them move legally to Australia and we have to welcome them with open arms,” he said.
“There are a number of classifications where we know we need workers here in Australia, some of which are hospitality, tourism and IT professionals.”
Opposition leader Peter Dutton said the Labor Party would “fight to the day” to legislate for the abolition of temporary protection visas.
Mr Dutton said Sky News presenter Chris Kenny’s Labor has the “formula” of Operation Sovereign Borders and it would be a “disaster” to remove temporary protection visas.
“If they pull this off, Sovereign Borders will collapse,” he said.
“When they say they support Sovereign Borders, they do not. They support their own version that does not have a temporary protection visa.
“And that will be their overthrow when it comes to boats, tragically and unfortunately.”
The Australian government announced on Wednesday that it would send thousands of GPS trackers to Sri Lanka to deploy in its extensive fleet of trawlers in an effort to prevent asylum seekers’ boats from leaving the devastated nation.
Ms O’Neil made the announcement when she opened the Fisheries Monitoring Center in Colombo on Tuesday along with Sri Lankan leaders and officials.
It is estimated that 4,000 vessels will be installed with the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) where the location of the large fleet will be monitored from the new center.
The $ 5 million surveillance system will allow the Sri Lankan government to raise maritime awareness, tackle human trafficking, illegal, unregulated and clandestine fishing, fight terrorism and ensure that criminal syndicates are not used.
In addition, it will enable the Ministry of Fisheries to monitor and ensure that fish are caught legally and that overfishing is not done to protect marine ecosystems.
Vessels without trackers or those who remove or deactivate them will be penalized by the Sri Lankan government.