Placing recent Sri Lankan maritime arrivals in a broader migration context

Dinuk Jayasuriya, Marie McAuliffe

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


    This paper explores the reasons behind the clandestine migration of Sri Lankans to Australia and places the discussion within a broader migration context. The paper is one of a series of occasional papers produced as part of the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s Irregular Migration Research Program. The stated aim of the Occasional Paper Series is to provide information on and analysis of specific irregular migration issues of relevance to Australia, within a broader migration and/or global context. The paper was prepared in response to the recent substantial increase in Sri Lankan maritime arrivals to Australia. Its objective was to provide factual evidence in a broader migration context and interpret the findings. The methodology sought out the views of potential irregular migrants in Sri Lanka through two large-scale surveys that were conducted in early 2013; the questions aimed to determine the motivation behind the large-scale irregular maritime movements to Australia in 2012. The paper presents the available data on irregular Sri Lankan migration to Australia, both by air and by sea. In 2012–2013, Australia received a total of 8,308 applications for asylum by people who originally arrived by air, which represented an increase of 18 percent from 2011–2012. Between 2008 and 2011, fewer than 500 Sri Lankans arrived illegally by sea annually; however, in 2012 that number jumped from fewer than 100 in the first quarter of 2012 to around 2,600 in the third quarter. The authors note that this increase was sudden and unusual in the global context in which Sri Lankan asylum seeker numbers had remained relatively steady. The paper discusses the motivations for the irregular migration of Sri Lankans, noting that those with a desire to travel by boat to Australia were overwhelmingly motivated by multiple, interrelated factors related to protection, visa access, employment, migrant smuggling, geography and family and community links. Through extensive surveys with irregular migrants, the paper provides new information on the motivations and activities of Sri Lankan irregular migrants travelling to Australia. The paper makes a contribution to the body of knowledge on irregular migration from Sri Lanka through the presentation of empirical evidence of irregular migration activity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Commissioning bodyIrregular Migration Research Program, Department of Immigration and Border Protection
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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