Trade between Australia and Sri Lanka has grown steadily throughout the last few years with Lankan exports reaching US $188 million in 2017 from US $ 163 in 2014. Imports in 2017 reached US $225 with the total trade between the two countries marking nearly US $400 million, according to Sri Lanka Customs.
Marking Australia Day which fell on Saturday, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia Somasundaram Skandakumar told the Daily News that the main export to Australia is apparels which brought nearly US $ 50 million to Sri Lanka in 2016.
Tea brought in US $ 23 million while other major exports in 2016 were footwear, gaiters and parts, articles of apparel and clothing accessories, virgin coconut oil, miscellaneous edible preparations, coconut (copra), palm kernel, solid tyres and ceramic products among other things, according to Sri Lanka Customs.
Sri Lanka’s major import from Australia is milk and cream, concentrated or containing added sugar worth US $ 41 million in 2016. Other imports were Mysoor dhal, wheat and meslin, paper and paperboard, lead, tanning or dying extracts, chickpeas, miscellaneous edible preparations and electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electrical circuits among other things, according to 2016 data from Sri Lanka Customs.
In addition, the total trade – both merchandise trade as well as trade in services – between the two countries for 2016/2017 was Aus $ 1,229 million, said the High Commissioner quoting Sri Lanka Customs, during an interview in Canberra.
The Sri Lankan community in Australia has contributed significantly to the Australian economy. A total of 150,880 people in Australia are identified to be of Sri Lankan ancestry, according to 2016 statistics of the Australian Bureau of Statistics of the Department of Social Services. The majority – an estimated 105,000 – is Sinhalese and an estimated 45,000 are Tamils. People who identify with a Sri Lankan ancestry mainly reside in Victoria (75,595) according to the 2016 census. Statistics also show that New South Wales had 40,100 people with a Sri Lankan ancestry, Queensland 13,515, Western Australia 11,171, South Australia 5,036 and Australian Capital Territory 3,924 in 2016.
A long list of eminent Australians of Sri Lankan origin have distinguished themselves as State Governors, chefs, literary award winners as well as global leaders of the legal fraternity such as the late Judge C. G. Weeramantry. Sri Lankans have integrated well into the Australian society and way of life and it is no surprise that some have made a mark in Australian politics, the High Commissioner said.
“Australia is a new country compared to Sri Lanka but it has achieved much to become a first world economy. For this reason, the country requires new immigrants,” Australian lawyer of Sri Lankan origin, Immigration Law Specialist Susantha Katugampala said marking Australia Day.
He said that Australia’s migration opportunities have risen due to its economic development. “Migration and economy go hand in hand. Being an immigration lawyer, practicing in Australia for over 20 years with Australian qualifications, I can affirm that Australia has been very generous in accepting legal immigrants with the right skills. But it is very strict with illegal immigrants. Legal immigration is the sole foundation of Australia,” he pointed out.
“Immigrants are free to protect their unique culture and still be an Australian. Skilled immigrants can obtain Permanent Residency and Citizenship regardless of their backgrounds, which is a good example for a diverse country such as Sri Lanka,” Katugampala said.He highlighted, “If you dream of living an Australian life, you should be prepared to take up the challenge. Dream what you want to do and drive towards the dream. Australians highly value fair play. If you want the ‘Australian Dream’, this is an important trait to find long-term happiness,” he stressed.
“As an Immigration Lawyer, we open up our networks to qualified people and provide them with opportunities to settle in Australia. They must in turn understand that they need to uphold justice and fair play,” he added.Katugampala, who also serves as a Director for SriLankan Airlines, emphasised that Australia is an important route for the national carrier.
“We need to attract more tourists from Australia. Sri Lanka is safe and beautiful. In order to expand SriLankan Airlines to more Australian cities, we need to overcome financial challenges,” he pointed out.
“Australia has a strong welfare system for any person living or travelling. Migrants are covered by mandatory healthcare systems, private insurance and social security schemes. Students need to have the insurance coverage and they have to prove the income level before applying to universities and for Visas. The Australian government ensures that a person would not be a burden to their respective countries,” High Commissioner Skandakumar said.
He said, since Australia has a proper system and migrants or students are direct beneficiaries of these systems, they can easily access Australian agencies for any emergencies which is quick, easy, and the most appropriate and authorised mechanism in Australia. On the other hand, due to strict privacy laws in Australia, any emergencies handled by Australian agencies are treated with strict confidence, he pointed out.
Australian border security is tight and people smuggling is discouraged at all levels. In 2012, about 156 boats arrived in Australian waters from Sri Lanka alone. Subsequently, with strong cooperation on both sides, those numbers were drastically reduced. With enhanced surveillance, this line of activity has almost completely ceased, the High Commissioner said.
Those seeking asylum in Australia are assessed by the Australian government through the Status Determination Process (SDP) to determine whether their case for asylum is justified. Until they finish the SDP, the Australian government takes care of their welfare and security.
Once the SDP is completed and if the case is negative, the Australian Boarder Force makes arrangements to deport/repatriate him/her to the country of origin. In this context, the Australian government seeks the support of the respective country Missions to prepare travel documents, according to High Commissioner Skandakumar.
“As a responsible nation, Sri Lanka has been maintaining a policy rejecting illegal migrants and safeguarding human rights. In the current context, there is no reason for any Sri Lankan to flee the country and seek asylum or refugee status in another country including in Australia. Thus, all asylum seekers are victims of human traffickers and their asylum claims are usually rejected by the Australian Government,” the High Commissioner emphasised.
ustralia has steadily risen to the top, economically and socially, with three of the top 10 most livable cities in the world being Australian cities, according to the Global Liveability Index (GLI) for 2018. Melbourne reined in the pinnacle for seven years until last year when Vienna took the top spot.Australia may have missed out on first place but Adelaide and Sydney came behind Melbourne in 10th and fifth places. Thus, Australia is one of the world’s most sought-after countries for migration.