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First asylum seeker boat returned to country of origin, with Australian navy frigate guiding vessel back to Sri Lanka

THE mystery of at least one of two asylum seeker boats at the centre of a week-long controversy has been solved — all 41 passengers have already arrived safely on their home soil.
In what is the first operation undertaken to return asylum seekers back to their country of origin by boat, an Australian navy frigate acting under border protection command sailed the Sri Lankan group back across the Indian Ocean after immigration officials deemed them to be economic refugees.
The operation also marked the first attempt by Sri Lankan asylum seekers to reach Australia since last October.
The Daily Telegraph can now confirm one boat that set sail from Sri Lanka in late June was intercepted by an Australian customs vessel last week.
The government has been under siege from refugee advocacy groups, human rights lawyers and some sections of the media since last month, for refusing to comment on or confirm that two boats suspected of carrying up to 200 asylum seekers had made it to Australians waters off Christmas Island. But border protection sources have confirmed ­neither of the boats reached Australia’s maritime zone.
The first vessel, containing the 41 asylum seekers, was intercepted well outside Australia’s maritime borders — in the contiguous zone west of Cocos Islands, more than 1000km west of Christmas Island and halfway between Sri Lanka and the Australian mainland.

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