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Australian Border Force ship docks in Colombo to return 46 men

Written by Javed Iqbal

The ABF said in its monthly report last week that it had stopped four boats from Sri Lanka in June with 125 people on board, the highest monthly number of vessels intercepted in seven years.

A fishing trawler carrying 12 men from Negombo, north of Colombo, was earlier pulled up near Christmas Island on May 21, the day of the federal election.

Since May, there have also been 15 boats attempting to leave Sri Lanka illegally that have been stopped by the navy, including some with children on board. A total of 701 people have been arrested on these boats and another 210 arrested on land with the assistance of the police, navy spokesman De Silva said on Friday.

Australia provides tactical assistance and training to Sri Lanka’s navy, which already uses two retired Australian patrol boats given to it when Operation Sovereign Borders came into effect under Tony Abbott in 2013.

The Albanian government has also donated more than 4000 GPS units to help Sri Lankan authorities monitor activity in their own waters.

The Sri Lankans who tried to come to Australia are on the run a devastating economic meltdown in the South Asian nationwhich has run out of foreign exchange reserves, and where inflation last month rose to a record high of 60.8 per cent.

Months of shortages of fuel, food and other essentials, as well as rising prices, also triggered a political upheaval that led to the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

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Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country then thousands of protesters stormed the presidential palace last month and has since been in Singapore, which has allowed him to stay as a private citizen in the city-state until next Thursday.

New leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was elected by MPs to serve out the remainder of Gotabaya’s presidency until 2024, has dismantled the sprawling protest camp that had been set up outside the presidential office for months.

He is negotiating a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund, but warned in a speech to parliament on Wednesday that Sri Lanka “faces an unprecedented situation” and that many difficulties still lie ahead.

“We are in great danger,” he said.

A spokesman for ABF said it does not comment on operational matters.

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Javed Iqbal

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