CANBERRA -- Australian authorities have returned a small group of Sri Lankan asylum seekers who attempted to get to Australia by boat.
In a statement, the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the boat was a people smuggling venture which was stopped Tuesday after assistance from Sri Lankan authorities.
It is the first acknowledgment of an asylum boat since the election.
It is not known if the six Sri Lankans aboard the vessel made refugee claims or are economic migrants, but were reportedly returned by plane to Sri Lanka.
It is also not known how close the boat got to Australia but the Minister said it was intercepted on an approach to Australia.
"Our Sri Lankan partners provided advice that this vessel might be targeting Australia so we were ready and waiting to locate and detain the boat," Dutton said in a statement.
"This return shows that there has not been, and will not be, any change to Australia's robust border protection policies."
In the meantime, a $116 million budget cut to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is biting. It has confirmed that voluntary redundancies will be offered to staff by the end of October as it seeks to slash hundreds of jobs.