Customs Gets New Boats To Patrol Borders

Customs gets new boats to patrol borders

Sydney Morning Herald
May 6, 2009

Australia's customs service has upgraded its border protection fleet with nine new vessels amid a surge in asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australian waters.

The vessels, launched in Brisbane on Wednesday, will be deployed on the east coast to replace older models.

Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus said the new vessels had been purchased with the findings of an inquest into the 2005 Malu Sara disaster in mind.

Five people died when the immigration boat disappeared in heavy fog and dangerous seas in the Torres Strait.

A coronial inquiry found officials failed to check the boat was seaworthy.

“Customs has certainly learnt that it should acquire equipment of the highest technical capacity,” Mr Debus said.

The increase in asylum seeker arrivals, which saw another group of 50 people intercepted northwest of Broome this week, was part of a global trend, he said.

“We therefore have to expect that there will be more boats in the immediate future,” Mr Debus said.

“As I understand it, there is still a good deal of capacity in the facility on Christmas Island.”

The quick interception of the latest arrivals was proof Australian customs was working well, Mr Debus said.

“Evidently, border protection is working, because these people are being systematically apprehended, taken to Christmas Island where they are assessed according to well-established procedures,” he said.

“I think you have to say that border protection has never been stronger.”