Four ‘illegal boat interceptions’ in Australia as economic unrest escalates in Sri Lanka

Four smugglers’ boats Sri Lanka have been intercepted in Australian waters amid growing economic turmoil in the Southeast Asian country.

Australian Border Force ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’ released a monthly report revealing that four boats with a total of 125 people on board were intercepted in June.

“The 125 passengers and crew were safely returned to Sri Lanka in close cooperation with the Sri Lankan government,” the report said.

People walk to work in the morning amid fuel shortages in Colombo. (AP)

Former Home Secretary Karen Andrews linked the boat interceptions to the new government’s immigration policies instead of the growing upheaval and economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

She also claimed it was the highest number of boat interceptions since 2015.

“Today the Australian Border Force released a report showing the highest number of boat interceptions since 2015,” read Andrews’ tweet.

“Labour should not weaken our borders by removing temporary protection visas.”

Protesters, including one carrying the national flag, storm the office of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. (AP)

The protests underscored the dramatic downfall of the Rajapaksa political clan that has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades.

At the heart of the protests is Sri Lanka’s economic crisis, as the country runs out of money to pay for imports of basic necessities such as food, fertilizer, medicine and fuel for its 22 million people.

The government, led by interim President Ranil Wickremesinghe, is preparing a debt restructuring plan, a condition of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout.

Home Secretary Clare O’Neil visited Sri Lanka in June and met with the country’s foreign minister.

Protesters shout slogans before storming the office of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. (AP)

Following the meeting, the two ministers said in a statement that “both ministers have renewed their resolve to continue working together to thwart smugglers and to prevent loss of life and risk to livelihoods of ‘innocent’.

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