BEIRUT: Australia said Thursday two Lebanese nationals who arrived to the country illegally by boat returned to Lebanon voluntarily, sending a message to immigrants that they will not be allowed to settle there.
The Lebanese were returned home voluntarily from Manus Island and arrived in Lebanon on Dec. 24, according to a statement released by the Australian Embassy in Beirut, adding that such a step “sends a strong message to those from Lebanon considering illegal travel by boat to Australia.”
“Lebanese nationals who have arrived by boat understand they will not be settled in Australia,” the statement quoted the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison as saying.
Morrison said the Australian government’s message was clear: “You should not come because you will not be allowed to stay.”
“Anyone who arrives by boat illegally will be sent to Papua New Guinea or Nauru,” Morrison said.
Morrison said smugglers would try to encourage people to get on boats, adding that those seeking such immigration were wasting their time and their money.
“There is no Australian visa for those who come illegally by boat,” he said.
Two months ago, at least seventeen Lebanese including a number of children drowned on their way to Australia in a boat accident off the coast of Indonesia.
The bodies, mostly from the impoverished northern region of Akkar, were repatriated to Lebanon.
Survivors and their families have spoken about a group of smugglers headed by an Iraqi citizen that charged each person between $3,000 and $5,000 to go on the trip.