25 May, 2024


Sri Lankan Boat Migration To Australia: Motivations And Dilemmas

By Emily Howie –

Emily Howie

Over the past 18 months, Sri Lankans have boarded boats for Australia in record numbers. Stories from boat migrants depict complex political and economic motivations for their journeys, contrary to the statements by both governments that the boats are filled solely, or primarily, with “economic migrants”. In fact, the economic concerns that are motivating people are themselves inextricable from political problems, persecution and other forms of discrimination and injustice. Rumours of the Sri Lankan government’s complicity in people-smuggling operations create a dilemma for the Australian government, whose survival at this year’s federal election depends on stopping the boats.

Read the full article here

This article appeared in the Economic Weekly / Vol – XLVIII No. 35, August 31, 2013

*Emily Howie – Director of Advocacy and Research at the Human Rights Law Centre Australia · hrlc.org.au

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Some of the ”Boat people” are forced to leave by forceful landgrabbing by the occupation army and the politicians close to the President – Australian Intelligence found out this which is well-known in the local community. This must be investigated by the Australian authorities. A lot of local people are being pestered by the occupation army (who are at least in some cases ”estate agents” for Sinhalese eager to buy land in the North) to sell the houses and land to them.

    • 0

      With the new Liberal – National government, NO HOPE!!!!

  • 0

    There was a time the British government had to press gang people into going down under. Then they resorted to sending petty criminals. The Irish still sing wistfully of the ‘Fields of Athenry’. Would Australia be so hasty in rejecting these courageous, persevering and resoureful people if they had been white? Will Tony Abbott be brave enough to bring back the ‘Whites Only’ policy?

    For those who’ve come across the seas
    We’ve boundless plains to share;
    With courage let us all combine
    To Advance Australia Fair.
    In joyful strains then let us sing,
    Advance Australia Fair.

    Nice words, sung tongue in cheek!

  • 0

    As a member of the UN and the Commonwealth, Australia has an oblgation to take up the human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

  • 0


    Excellent article, well researched and spot on; and I say this from first hand knowledge of what is happening right now. All Sri Lankans despair of their current lot. We have peace but the ordinary Sri Lankan(Sinhalese, Tamils and others), see none of the peace dividend. Indeed they see lawlessness with impunity, shysters and crooks thriving and avaricious ministers and their hangers on making hay. Frustration is rife. Australia to the south is so enticing.
    How can one blame them for not giving it a go?

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