Home Secretary visits Sri Lanka for talks on how Australia can help the country weather the economic crisis

Home Secretary Clare O’Neil will travel to Sri Lanka on Monday as the South Asian neighbor continues to struggle with its .
The trip also follows the interception of several boats of asylum seekers traveling to Australia from the country in recent weeks.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the government wanted to use the trip to send a message that “people arriving by boat” would not be settled in Australia.
“We will be strong at the borders without being weak vis-à-vis humanity – but we will be strong with regard to our borders,” he told reporters.

“We understand that there are problems in Sri Lanka and that smugglers are sending the wrong messages – our message will be very clear.”

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Ms O’Neil will meet Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during her visit as well as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister GL Peiris.
The Minister will use the talks to discuss how Australia can help Sri Lanka through its economic difficulties, as well as its commitment to the fight against human trafficking.
The island nation’s worst economic crisis in seven decades has resulted in a foreign exchange shortage that has blocked imports of essential items such as fuel, medicine and fertilizer.
It also caused a devaluation of its currency, as well as street protests expressing anger at the political handling of the situation.
The crisis came from a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the tourism-dependent economy, rising oil prices and populist tax cuts by Mr Rajapaksa and his brother, Mahinda, who recently resigned as Prime Minister.

The Australian Border Force has reportedly intercepted three boats carrying asylum seekers since the May 21 election, raising new concerns.

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Mr Albanese said his government was committed to a boat return policy as part of Operation Sovereign Borders.
“Our system is in place of Operation Sovereign Borders,” he said.
“Smugglers seek to trade in misery – they seek to mislead – often run by criminal syndicates and that is why it is so deceptive to behave in this way.”

Ms. O’Neil’s visit also coincides with the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and Australia.