KAREN ANDREWS: Thank you Minister Rajapaksa.
It’s a pleasure to be here today to participate in the formal opening of the Sri Lankan Border Risk Assessment Centre – or BRAC.
The BRAC will significantly strengthen Sri Lanka’s border to criminals, smugglers, and terrorists, while also streamlining the entry and exit of traders, travellers, and tourists – all of whom will be vital to regional economic recovery as we emerge from the pandemic.
The opening of the BRAC is another significant milestone in the Australia-Sri Lanka relationship, with the centre one component of our Integrated Border Management project, which Australia has supported with more than $5 million in funding.
The BRAC is just the latest demonstration that our two countries share a close and practical partnership, involving joint efforts to strengthen regional border security and stamp out criminal people smuggling syndicates.
Of course, in Australia, we have some of the strongest borders in the world.
Every Sri Lankan people smuggling vessel that has entered Australian waters in the past six and a half years has been stopped, and all those on board returned to Sri Lanka.
Since the establishment of Operation Sovereign Borders in September 2013, Australia has returned to Sri Lanka; 204 Sri Lankan nationals from 12 vessels.
I’d like to thank the Sri Lankan Government for their support in this regard.
I note you’ve had some significant recent successes in combatting people smuggling here in Sri Lanka. In October, more than 70 people were apprehended by the Sri Lanka Navy in Chilaw and another group of 65 people were arrested by Sri Lanka Police in Trincomalee.
In November, the Sri Lanka Navy disrupted an attempt by 19 people to migrate illegally by boat in Chilaw.
As these efforts demonstrate, Sri Lanka is an important regional leader in the fight in against people smuggling. I commend your commitment to proactively deterring and disrupting any people smuggling trade in Sri Lanka.
Minister Rajapaksa – I’d also like to thank you for Sri Lanka’s ongoing support for Australia’s anti-people smuggling strategic communication campaign – ‘Zero chance of illegal migration’.
This year, our countries have partnered together on more than one occasion to deliver public information campaigns to inform and protect vulnerable communities who may be targeted by people smugglers.
Each year the ‘Zero Chance Stories’ film competition gives inspiring Sri Lankan film makers the chance to submit a short film that illustrates the dangers of illegal maritime migration.
I note the competition is now accepting entries, so I look forward to seeing more of the outstanding talent the Sri Lankan film industry has to offer. Go to zerochance.lk for more information and to submit your entry.
Thank you again, Minister Rajapaksa. I look forward to our continued work together and I wish you much success in further securing Sri Lanka’s borders through the work of the Border Risk Assessment Centre.