“I want to make this observation... Sri Lanka is not everyone’s idea of an ideal society, but it is at peace,” Abbott said.
In the past three months, three Tamil asylum seekers on temporary visas in Australia, facing the prospect of being returned to Sri Lanka, have set themselves on fire. Two died.
While Abbott’s popularity among voters has plummeted, more than 70 percent of Australians support the government’s border policy, including sending boats back when safe to do so, according to a recent poll by the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.
Australia has offshore detention centers in the impoverished South Pacific nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru capable of holding thousands.
About 16,000 asylum seekers came on 220 boats to Australia in the first seven months of last year but the government says there have been no illegal boat arrivals since December last year.