There should be no problem with Tamils. Both Tamil Nadu (in India) and the Sri Lankan government will accept them. The terrorists among them could go to Tamil Nadu and actually be welcomed

HUNDREDS of Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum-seekers are likely to be sent home under Julia Gillard’s tough policy agenda to deter boatpeople.

As the Prime Minister prepared to unveil a new approach to tackling the issue this week – possibly including a resumption to the processing of Sri Lankan boatpeople – The Australian understands officials are working on a pact with Afghanistan over returning asylum-seekers.

It is believed the agreement, which is not expected to be included in this week’s announcement, would involve assurances from Kabul guaranteeing the safety of unsuccessful asylum-seekers.

Although up to 60 per cent of Afghan asylum-seekers have had their claims rejected, only two have been returned home since the surge in boatpeople started in late 2008.

Federal Cabinet will hold talks on the new approach today ahead of the Thursday deadline for a decision on whether the three-month freeze on the processing of Sri Lankan asylum-seeker claims will be extended or terminated.

New guidelines from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees are expected to remove the blanket assumption that any Tamil asylum-seeker from Sri Lanka’s war-torn north should be considered a refugee. It will be replaced by assessments likely to focus on high-risk groups, such as Tamils associated with the defeated Tamil Tigers or critics of the Sri Lankan Government.

Sources said that while the Government was expecting the new UNHCR guidelines before Thursday’s deadline, Australia was not bound by them.

As Australian officials confirmed the arrival of another suspected asylum-seeker boat over the weekend near Christmas Island, carrying 34 passengers and two crew, Ms Gillard again signalled a policy shift on the issue, pledging to cast aside “political correctness”.

The move would send a tough message to families considering paying people-smugglers for passage to Australia.

“There is no doubt about it, the best deterrent is to return people back home who are not refugees,” a Gillard Government source said last night.