Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says the government will take tough measures against Sri Lankan asylum seekers
Sri Lankan asylum seekers coming to Australia, whether by plane, boat or through third countries, can now expect to be promptly returned home.
The immediate decision to return all 79 passengers aboard a vessel which arrived in waters near the Cocos (Keeling) Island on October 11 to Sri Lanka demonstrated the government's resolve.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says he's instructed his department to enforce a screen-out policy on all Sri Lankan nationals who claim asylum, regardless of how they reached Australia.
Under Labor, one in five Sri Lankan boat arrivals was being screened out and returned.
But Sri Lankans arriving in Australia through third countries weren't subject to the screen-out policy.
"Under Operation Sovereign Borders we are taking a much stronger position. We are not dealing in half measures under protest," Mr Morrison said on Friday during a weekly border protection update.
Since the new policy began on September 18, the trend in boat arrival numbers has been falling.
"While there has been a significant decline in the number of illegal arrivals by boat to Australia during this period, I want to stress that the government is drawing no conclusions," Mr Morrison said.
"We are inferring or making no presumption about that that trend might be."
In the past week there have been just three boats, including the one that arrived on October 11.
Commander of Operation Sovereign Borders, Major General Angus Campbell, said 53 people from the second boat and a further 41 from a third vessel were moved to Christmas Island.
The government is transferring asylum seekers from Christmas Island to offshore detention centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island for processing and potential resettlement anywhere other than Australia.
As of Friday, there were 1,061 detainees on Manus Island, 827 on Nauru and 2211 on Christmas Island.
Facing Mr Morrison in the new parliament will be Labor's new immigration and border protection spokesman Richard Marles.
"This has been a challenging policy area for Labor over the last few years, and one marked by unfortunate language about invasions and illegals," Mr Marles said in a statement.
He would seek a return to consensus on the importance of immigration and on policies to stop people-smuggling.
Regional co-operation on offshore processing was proving an effective deterrent.
"However, this does not give the government an excuse to use the cloak of military secrecy to hide from Australians information about boat arrivals and operations involving asylum seekers," Mr Marles said.