SYDNEY (AP) — Australia’s government has confirmed it handed over a boatload of asylum seekers to Sri Lankan authorities in a transfer at sea. The announcement has sparked outrage from human rights groups who fear those on board could face persecution when they return home.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday that the 41 Sri Lankans were intercepted by Australian border patrol off the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean. They were handed over on Sunday to the Sri Lankan government after their refugee claims were assessed at sea and rejected.
Among the asylum seekers from Sri Lanka are ethnic Tamils who survived a lengthy civil war between government troops and the now-defeated separatist Tamil Tiger rebels. Refugee advocates say Tamils still face violence by the military.