| 07.12,11. 05:31 PM |
Latest boat since PM's failed solution
December 07, 2011
IT is the 21st illegal boat arrival since Julia Gillard's bungled Malaysia Solution - with very few unhappy returns.
Passengers on the asylum seeker boat intercepted just 20km from the Australian mainland were yesterday being transferred almost 4000km to Christmas Island.
The arrival was one of two boats in 24 hours, with another carrying 167 passengers - the third biggest arrival since Labor took office in 2007 - intercepted off Christmas Island.
The massive passenger load took the number of boat arrivals past 4000 for the year and it was the 21st boat since the Malaysia deal collapsed in September with the Greens, independents and the Coalition opposed to changing the Migration Act to allow for the people swap.
Since then, few if any of the arrivals have been returned to their homelands.
Curtin detention centre is about 200km from where the first boat, with 54 passengers and two crew, was intercepted west of the Lacepede Islands on Monday night.
The government now treats maritime entrants' refugee claims the same way as air arrivals but they were still taken the thousands of kilometres to Christmas Island.
"That doesn't make much sense at all," opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said yesterday.
"This is a government whose only interest in border protection is to try and keep up appearances - but the people smugglers aren't fooled."
Customs said the vessel was detected from the air on Sunday but authorities had to wait until it crossed into Australian waters to intercept it.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, who is in Geneva, blamed Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for the arrivals: "We did say that, with Tony Abbott blocking offshore processing and the Malaysia arrangement not being allowed to proceed, the boats would keep coming."
Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor yesterday handed three border patrol boats, worth a total of $7.1 million with an extra $1 million for ongoing operational costs, to Indonesia.
The boats are equipped with night vision goggles and infra-red technology.
He also promised Australia would work with Indonesia to find a way to ascertain the age of crew on asylum boats after dozens of children have been locked in adult jails here.
"Australia has no desire to jail Indonesian children and we are committed to ensuring any minors among people smuggling crew are treated appropriately," Mr O'Connor said.He said talks on a regional approach to tackling people smuggling had progressed.