Fear of Sri Lanka refugee surge

Australian government bracing for influx of asylum seekers fleeing fighting.

    Smith said there was 'very grave potential' for fleeing Sri Lankans to head for Australia [AFP]

    Divisive issue

    Asylum policy is an issue that divides Australians, with some supporting a more humanitarian approach and others wanting a tougher stance on border security.

    The centre-left government of Kevin Rudd, the prime minister, softened immigration policy last July.

    Since then, 14 boats carrying more than 400 asylum seekers, mostly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka, have reached Australia's waters.

    According to the country's border protection service, 162 asylum-seekers arrived by boat in 2008 and 148 in 2007. So far in 2009, there have been seven boat arrivals carrying more than 200 people.

    The Rudd government has been defending its asylum policy for the past week, with critics saying last year's abolition of mandatory detention was encouraging more arrivals.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    How different voting systems work around the world

    How different voting systems work around the world

    Nearly two billion voters in 52 countries around the world will head to the polls this year to elect their leaders.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    How the art world's hunger for ancient artefacts is destroying a centuries-old culture. A journey across the Himalayas.