I am guessing that this is in part driven by a hope that most of those caught will be Tamils. Sri Lankan Sinhalese have a hatred of Tamils created by many years of ferocious Tamil terrorism — and a desire for some degree of payback is very understandable

As a further 52 asylum seekers were brought ashore on Christmas Island [Australia] yesterday, a fleet of fishing boats carrying 142 Sri Lankans bound for Australia was intercepted. Sri Lanka’s navy last night said it seized the four fishing trawlers off the island nation’s southern coast and handed them over to local police.

“The passengers had paid large sums of money to people smugglers to take them abroad,” navy spokesman Athula Senarath said. In recent months there has been an increase in the number of Sri Lankans trying to enter Australia, many claiming political asylum – most famously the 72 who ended up aboard Australian Customs vessel Oceanic Viking.

At Christmas Island yesterday, however, the 52 new arrivals – brought to land under the watchful eye of an Australian Federal Police contingent – were Afghans.

They were transferred from an Australian Customs vessel standing off the island and conveyed by barge to the public wharf in Flying Fish Cove, where interpreters were waiting with buses to take them to the island’s detention centres. Sources said the latest group comprised 39 adult males, one adult female and 10 minors, plus two crew.

Extra security precautions have been in place since Saturday night’s violent riot at the island’s principal immigration detention centre – where the men will be housed while their identity and security checks are carried out.

The women will be put in temporary accommodation of prefabricated huts behind barbed wire in the grounds of the recreation centre and at an adjacent construction camp. The male arrivals will put further stress on the already overcrowded camp, which was built to hold 400, expanded to cope with 800 and has recently held more than 1000. On Monday, nearly 70 people who were processed on Christmas Island were informed they were to be granted permanent visas and taken to Australia. [A reward for forcing the gates!]

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