By Daniela Ritorto
The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka has urged compatriots who are being held in Australian-run immigration detention centres to come home.
"Come back. All is forgiven," Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said as he stood beside Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on an official visit to Canberra on Wednesday.
He told reporters that the asylum seekers committed a crime by trying to reach Australia but will not be punished if they return.
"They can come back to Sri Lanka and we will help them"
"But remember, they broke the law by attempting to come to Australia" he said.
Hundreds of Sri Lankans, mostly Tamils, tried to flee to Australia, after the end the of the decades-long civil war, which ended with the defeat of Tamil separatists in 2009.
Many died at sea on their journey.
Latest Immigration Department figures from December 2016 show 86 Sri Lankans remain detention on Manus Island and Nauru, who refuse to go home.
SBS World News asked Prime Minister Wickremesinghe if it is safe for them to do so.
"Yes, it is quite safe.
"Some of them have left from places where conflict didn't even take place. All of them are not even Tamils and even we want all the
Tamils to come back," Mr Wickremesinghe said.
"We should not make a mess of ourselves like they've gone and done in Europe and the Middle East."
Prime Minister Turnbull said the two leaders discussed countering people-smuggling.
"The Australian and Sri Lankan navies have a strong and growing relationship", Mr Turnbull said.
"We also have long standing, close cooperation aimed at ending the scourge of people smuggling and it's a testament to our success that there have been no illegal boat arrivals from Sri Lanka since 2013."
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