Twenty-eight Sri Lankan men had opted to return home after choosing not to pursue their asylum claims, says Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.


The group consists of people who arrived both before and after new regional processing arrangements were announced on August 13 and include two from Nauru, 20 from Christmas Island and six from mainland facilities including Villawood in NSW and Yongah Hill in Western Australia.

“Regular transfers to Nauru and more Sri Lankans returning home is further proof that people smugglers only sell lies and make false promises about what awaits people in Australia,” Mr Bowen said in a statement.

Earlier this month, another group of 18 Sri Lankan asylum seekers chose to head home rather than be sent to Nauru.

Meanwhile, Australian authorities are waiting to process a total of 333 suspected asylum seekers from the latest three boat arrivals in Australian waters.

Two of the boats, carrying 198 and 63 people, called for assistance on Friday, while a third, with 72 passengers, was later intercepted by an Australian navy vessel.

The arrivals will be taken to Christmas Island for security, health and identity checks.

Under the federal government’s new offshore processing regime, they could be sent to Nauru or Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

The opposition’s immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison is urging the government to put in place arrangements with Sri Lanka to have asylum seeker boats intercepted outside Australian borders turned back to the southern Asian nation.

This would “send a clear message that Australia’s borders are closed”.

“Safe return policies for Vietnamese were a key part of the regional response to the Indochinese refugee crisis in the late 1980s,” Mr Morrison said on Saturday.

“There is no reason why similar policies cannot now be put in place in Sri Lanka.”