SYDNEY, July 28, 2014 (AFP) – A group of 157 asylum-seekers held for weeks on the high seas on an Australian customs vessel were likely economic migrants from India, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said Monday. “The indications are… that there are a very large number of people on this ship that had been resident in India for a very long time,” Morrison told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
He said the boat had come from the “safe” nation of India, and had not stopped anywhere else on the way.
“They haven’t come from Sri Lanka, they haven’t come from any of those other countries — Afghanistan or anything like that,” he said.
“They have come from India and as a result where they are safe in India, a passage to Australia here is nothing more than an economic migration seeking to illegally enter Australia.”
The group, thought to be mostly ethnic Tamils from Sri Lanka and including women and children, left the Indian port of Pondicherry last month — but their boat was intercepted by Australian authorities.
The asylum-seekers were then held in limbo on the customs ship until Morrison announced Friday they would be brought to Australia, where Indian consular officials would assess