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Greens Urge Sanctions Against Sri Lanka -AAP

[MISC, Sunday, 25 October 2009 09:34 No Comment]

350.0.1.0.16777215.0.stories.large.2009.10.25.80840310 Greens Leader Bob Brown has urged the federal government to consider sanctions against Sri Lanka amid concerns about the treatment of the nation’s Tamil population.

More than 250,000 people remain in camps in Sri Lanka after being displaced as a result of a long-standing civil war, which came to an end earlier this year.

Australia should be helping to stem the flow of asylum seekers by ramping up pressure on Sri Lankan authorities, Senator Brown said.

"There should be a lot more pressure on the Sri Lankan authorities to be treating the Tamil populations with a great deal more decency than what we’re seeing at the moment," Senator Brown told the Nine Network.

"We need to see more action from Australian governments at flashpoints in our own region if we are going to stop this pressure for people to be leaving boats and seeking asylum here in Australia," he said.

The Sri Lankan government earlier this year crushed the Tamil Tigers, ending a long-standing civil war.

But the end to the conflict has seen a massive surge in the number of Tamils seeking asylum, contributing to a recent surge in boat people heading for Australia.

A group of 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers, rescued by the Australian navy in Indonesia’s search and rescue zone last weekend, has been taken back to Indonesia.

Adult male passengers among the group picked up last weekend, who are now aboard the Australian Customs vessel Oceanic Viking, have gone on a hunger strike in protest over the decision to return them to Indonesia.

The group is being transferred to the Indonesian port of Tanjung Pinang.

The Rudd government maintains its border protection policy is tough but humane.

But Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the treatment of the 78 asylum seekers had been a "debacle" and has called for a greater focus on the people at the centre of the problem rather than on Australia’s border protection regime.

"It’s been debacle after debacle with this group of 78 asylum seekers," Senator Hanson-Young told the Ten Network.

The group should have been brought to Australia to have their claims for asylum processed, she said.

Senator Hanson-Young said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s solution, including striking a deal with Indonesia, seemed to be about logistics and how to push the boats back.

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