How come these guys did not get the normal big welcome? As far as I can tell, they forgot to say the magic word "asylum" when first interviewed
THE Rudd government chartered a 100-seat jet to Sri Lanka at the weekend to forcibly remove six asylum-seekers who staged a dramatic eight-hour protest inside the Christmas Islands immigration detention centre last month.
The six Sinhalese fishermen became the first asylum-seekers to be isolated inside the centre's controversial "red block", built by the Howard government, with small metal cells to detain violent or unstable detainees.
They were among 50 Sri Lankans who had been trying to reach New Zealand when their boat hit a reef in Torres Strait on March 28. So far, only 12 have been found to be refugees and granted visas.
Another 29 have gone home voluntarily on commercial flights from Perth, one is in detention in Perth in preparation for returning voluntarily on a commercial flight and the remaining two are in detention on Christmas Island while their claims are resolved.
On October 30, the protesting six, who had been assessed and rejected, refused to board a charter plane from Christmas Island to Perth, where they were expected to join a commercial flight to Colombo as voluntary removals. Instead, one of the men stunned onlookers by swiftly climbing a pole thought to be more than 12m. He stayed there poised to jump for the most of the day while the five others refused to co-operate with people sent to the scene, including a psychologist.
The operation to return the six to Sri Lanka began on Friday when the Department of Immigration and Citizenship chartered a Fokker 100 from the mainland. It brought in guards specially trained in involuntary removals. At 6.30am on Saturday, the Sri Lankans were brought to Christmas Island's airport in two minibuses with guards. In total, 17 guards and immigration workers accompanied the men to Colombo on the airliner. The minders returned to Christmas Island alone yesterday morning.
Yesterday there were 1114 asylum-seekers on Christmas Island and 14 crew. Authorities were preparing for the delivery early this week of the 40th boatload of asylum-seekers intercepted this year. The group of 47 and three crew were spotted on Friday near Ashmore Reef.
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