Home Australia ‘Problem of their own making’: Dutton blasts Labor over asylum seeker boats

‘Problem of their own making’: Dutton blasts Labor over asylum seeker boats

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Peter Dutton said asylum seeker boats being intercepted is "a significant and emerging problem for the new government but it's a problem of their own making". 

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has blasted the Albanese government over asylum seeker boats, declaring Labor has found themselves with "a problem of their own making" on border protection.  

Four vessels have been intercepted by Border Force and Sri Lankan officials in the last five weeks with refugees claiming they were told they would not be turned back to their home country under a new government.

"This is a significant and emerging problem for the new government but it's a problem of their own making. The situation in Sir Lanka hasn't occurred in the last four weeks since this government was elected," Mr Dutton told reporters on Thursday.

Sri Lankans have been desperately trying to flee the island which is going through its worst economic crisis in 70 years and has led to shortages in food, fuel and other essential items.

Mr Dutton said the situation in Sri Lanka has been "in a state of turmoil" for a while as he hit out at Labor for their stance on temporary protection visas, which he insisted was a key part of deterring people smugglers under Operation Sovereign Borders.

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"The situation economically and socially on the ground otherwise has been in a state of turmoil for some time and the circumstance in which the government finds itself at the moment is of their own making because they trashed Operation Sovereign Borders," he said. 

"They wanted you to believe that they had Operation Sovereign Borders as their policy but of course it's not. They removed the central limb to OSB which was the temporary protection visa.

"And the people smugglers aren't stupid, they're sophisticated criminal syndicates and their marketing on that basis to people." 

Labor flagged during the Federal Election campaign it would abolish temporary protection visas and move to permanent protection visas if it won government but declared its support for boat turnbacks and offshore processing.

"Last thing I want to see is boats restart. I don't want to see women and children back in detention as they were when Labor was last in power and we'll provide whatever support we can to the government," Mr Dutton said. 

"The point is that economic circumstances in Sri Lanka have been dire for some time and as a government, we were able able to deal with that, we were able to stare down people smugglers.

"The problem for this government is they speak out of both sides of their mouth when it comes to the issue of border protection and that creates an environment where people will be prepared to pay money to get on boats and we know how that finishes tragically."

Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil flew to Colombo this week to meet with Sri Lankan leaders to discuss how Australia could assist in the humanitarian and economic crisis as well as how to tackle the issue of asylum seekers.

She pledged the government will provide $50 million in support, including $22 million to the World Food Programme and $23 million in development assistance.

The other $5 million was recently provided to the United Nations agencies in Sri Lanka.

Australia will send Sri Lanka thousands of GPS trackers to install onto its sprawling fleet of fishing trawlers in a bid to stop asylum seeker boats from leaving the collapsed nation.

Ms O'Neil made the announcement where she opened the Fisheries Monitoring Centre in Colombo on Tuesday alongside Sri Lankan leaders and officials.

An estimated 4,000 boats will be installed with the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) where the location of the large fleet will be monitored from the new centre.

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