Canberra, Feb 15 – Sri Lanka’s prime minister has urged compatriots who are being held in Australian-run immigration detention centres to come home.
Ranil Wickremesinghe claimed the Sri Lankans had broken the law in trying to flee to Australia but insisted they would not face prosecution if they returned.
“Come back. All is forgiven,” Wickremesinghe said as he stood beside Malcolm Turnbull in Canberra on Wednesday.
Asked about those who might prefer to remain in the camps than return in fear for their safety, he insisted they were mistaken, pointing to a newly established missing persons office in his country.
“Some of them have left from places where conflict didn’t even take place,” Wickremesinghe said. “All of them are not even Tamils and even we want all the Tamils to come back. We should not make a mess of ourselves like they’ve gone and done in Europe and the Middle East, the Guardian reported.
“They left Sri Lanka illegally. They are welcome to return to Sri Lanka and we won’t prosecute them, so they can come back to Sri Lanka, and we will have them, but remember, they broke the law in coming to Australia, attempting to come to Australia.”
When asked by reporters whether it was safe for asylum seekers to return, Wickremesinghe said: “We just started a missing persons office. It is quite safe for them to come back.”
Australia and Sri Lanka shared a number of bonds through their history, Wickremesinghe said.
“Sri Lanka and Australia have shared a common past. There are many values we inherited from the British empire to which we added our own values, and Australia today is one of the leading members of the Asia-Pacific region.”