17 Dec 2012

Spy boost to combat Sri Lanka smugglers

10:11 am on 17 December 2012

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr has announced a boost for Sri Lanka's spy network and closer maritime ties to help target people smuggling rackets there.

Senator Carr is in Colombo for talks with Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Under a plan announced on Monday, Australia will give Sri Lanka extra surveillance and search and rescue equipment.

AAP reports Australia will also host a joint training programme on maritime surveillance for Sri Lankan naval officers.

"There is a message from these talks to people in Sri Lanka - by getting on that boat you risk your life, you'll lose your money and you will be sent back home," Senator Carr said in Colombo on Monday.

There has been a surge in the numbers of migrants from Sri Lankan undertaking asylum seeker boat journeys to Australia in recent years.

AAP reports there will also be a $A700,000 advertising campaign targeting Sri Lankan towns and villages identified as people smuggling hot spots.

"We're setting a clear agenda for intelligence sharing, naval co-operation and helping rebuild Sri Lanka - all designed to reduce people smuggling," said Senator Carr.

Australia hopes to cut demand for economic migration with a $A45 million programme, over five years, to help rebuild houses and schools in poor rural communities, Senator Carr said.

Senator Carr said co-operation this year had disrupted 65 smuggling ventures involving 2900 people and led to the involuntary return of more than 700 Sri Lankans since August.