Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has ended a three month freeze on processing of asylum claims by Sri Lankan refugees. “The government has decided to lift immediately the suspension on processing claims of Sri Lankans,” Gillard told Sydney’s Lowy Institute think-tank. “I am not immediately ending the suspension of processing of Afghan asylum seekers, but my government will keep that decision under review in the coming weeks and months,” she said.
This relief comes despite a recent UN report saying that Sri Lanka’s security situation has improved and that Tamils from the North no longer need preferred refugee status.
Many Australian papers speculated that this report would result in a tougher stand from PM Gillard’s government. They, however, surprised them by lifting the freeze to begin processing claims. This does not, of course, mean that the claims will be approved.
The PM also said that she has had talks with the United Nations and East Timor to establish an immigration processing center there. The President of East Timor has confirmed that talks are ongoing.