A leading Sri Lankan refugee lawyer says a return to off-shore processing will deter many Tamil asylum seekers.

The end of the civil war in Sri Lanka has seen a surge in Tamils seeking asylum in Australia.

They pay people smugglers as much as $10,000 for a place on a boat out of the country.

An estimated 70,000 Sri Lankan Tamils live in refugee camps in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

They face an uncertain future.

It is not clear if they can stay in India and many are not sure they want to return to Sri Lanka.

Recently Indian authorities have intercepted several boatloads of Tamils.

It is suspected they were trying to get to Australia.

Organised crime groups are suspected to be running people smuggling syndicates.

Tamils are paying the equivalent of up to $AU10,000 for a voyage.

SC Chandrahasan, a prominent Sri Lankan Tamil refugee advocate based in Chennai, says it is crippling many people financially and exposing them to violence when they cannot pay.

“When they make an attempt and it fails and they have already given all what they have had, they are asked to bring further recruits in order to be put on the next boat,” he said.

“And it’s a vicious circle. And this is how there are people who are being caught more than once.”

People smuggling syndicates are also prominent in Sri Lanka, where many Tamils are looking to escape persecution.

Lakshan Dias is an immigration lawyer in Colombo who has represented hundreds of Tamils in asylum cases.

“$US20,000 you can buy your trawler. Or at least you can buy your trawler on a loan,” he said.

“What people do, they collectively organise money and get this trawler and they go to Australia.”

Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka made up a lot of the influx of asylum seekers when Labor changed the immigration laws.

But according to Lakshan Dias, that could change now a shift back to offshore processing on Nauru looks likely.

“People who are going to Australia, there are both categories – those who are real live threat as well as looking for greener pastures,” he said. (ABC)

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