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The ethnic mix of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka raises serious questions

October 24, 2012

The ethnic mix of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka raises serious questions

The news in Australia about asylum seekers is passed through so many partisan filters that it often difficult to work out where the truth lies.

Often there is a message that a reporter wants the audience to take away from stories about ‘Boat People’ and ocean going asylum seekers. Political parties like the Australian Greens would like to have us believe that every single person who arrives on Australian shores by boat is a genuine refugee. They went as far demanding that safe sea passages be created by the Australian navy to help assist the smooth transition from places like Indonesia. Needless to say, both major political parties, Liberal and Labor, consider this plan to be counterproductive.

Another factor that muddies that water on the asylum seeker issue are activists who claim that every single person who comes is fleeing immediate danger and should accepted as genuine refugee. They attacked the Howard Government when it introduced the Pacific Solution and applauded the Rudd Government when it dismantled it in 2007. Despite the huge increase of boat arrivals and death at sea as a result of this policy shift many of the same activists fail see a problem.

Inevitably the question of Sri Lankan boat arrivals has become an important factor in the partisan arguments. People like Sarah Hanson-Young and Lee Rhiannon from the Australian Greens insist that it is push factors from an oppressive Sri Lankan anti- Tamil regime that is causing so many people to flee.

Such assessments may be the staple of opinion papers and websites but there very little data to prove the assertions made. Instead it becomes an emotionally charged debate where the confused bystander has no idea what is true.

With regards to Sri Lankan ocean going asylum seekers the answer might lie in who is actually on the boat.

Below is snapshot of numbers and ethnic background of people detained by the Sri Lankan on boats attempting to sail to Australia:

 

Date

Type of vessel

Tamils

Sinhalese

Muslims

Total

11th Oct 2012

Trawler

91

14

7

112

8th oct 2012

Trawler

45

22

0

67

2nd oct 2012

On land

14

7

2

23

30th Sept 2012

Trawler

28

7

1

36

26th sept 2012

Trawler

3

7

9

19

21st sept 2012

Trawler

59

9

18

86

14 sept 2012

2 boats

unknown

unknown

unknown

86

11th sept 2012

Trawler

49

1

3

53

10th sept 2012

Trawler

35

9

1

45

8th sept 2012

2 boats

132

10

4

146

6th sept

Trawler

47

5

2

54

29th aug 2012

2 boats

117

5

1

123

28th aug 2012

Trawler

59

22

 

81

25-26 aug

Trawler

12

0

12

24

25-26 aug

Trawler

52

0

0

52

25 aug 2012

Trawler

53

25

0

77

Total

796

143

60

1084

 

 

Analysis of data:

This snapshot of the data should not be mistaken for a comprehensive study as it only covers dates between August 2012 and October 2012. However it does seem to dispel a few myths about the kind of demographic that are choosing to use a people smugger.

Tamil passengers make up a majority of the passengers which less than 80%. However there is also a sizeable number of Sinhalese passengers (close to 20%) and smaller number of Muslim passengers ( around 6%).

If we are to presume that the Tamil passengers are war refugees who are unable to live in a Sinhalese dominated then it does not explain why the are willing to share a boat with each other. The Muslims inclusion is much more difficult to explain because they were expelled from the North of Sri Lankan by the LTTE during the civil war.

It would be interesting to see what a more comprehensive study would show.

 

Data references:

67 Australia bound Persons arrested

23 Australia bound Persons arrested at Weligama

36 Australia bound Persons intercepted off Koduwakattu seas

19 Australia bound Persons intercepted off Dondra 

86 Australian-bound Persons arrested in Galle Seas

Illegal immigration bid foiled

53 Australia bound Persons intercepted off Pigeon Island

Australia bound trawler arrested

Navy intercepts 02 Australia – bound Multi – day Trawlers in Eastern Seas

Navy intercepts Australia bound trawler

Lankan asylum seekers in Indonesian custody

123 Australia bound Persons arrested

147 Australia bound Persons arrested

76 Australia bound Persons arrested

98 Australia bound Persons arrested Seas

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