New Asylum Boat Adds Fuel To Policy Debate

New asylum boat adds fuel to policy debate

By Joe Kelly
The Australian, May 17, 2010

Another boatload of suspected asylum seekers has been intercepted by a customs vessel acting under the control of Border Protection Command four nautical miles north of Ashmore reef.

The asylum seekers were intercepted yesterday afternoon and initial indications suggest there were 43 passengers and four crew on board.

The group is now being transferred to Christmas Island for security identity and health checks.

Earlier today the opposition attacked the government for its border-protection policies, claiming more people had arrived by boat this year than in all of 2009.

Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison released a statement which set out in a log of boat arrivals showing 2873 people had come illegally by boat to Australia this year compared with 2792 last year.

'The arrival of the latest illegal boat over the weekend means that barely four and a half months into the year, 2873 people have arrived illegally by boat, 81 more than the 2792 who arrived during the whole of 2009,' he said.

'This is a shameful indictment of our immigration and border protection chaos under Kevin Rudd and his failure to take direct action to fix a problem of his own making,' he said.

The Department of Immigration confirmed the opposition figures were roughly correct, but had the number of irregular maritime arrivals who had arrived by boat this year at 2877.

Mr Morrison said the interception of yesterdays boat meant that another 47 individuals should be added to the list.

'Its remarkable that were not even at the end of May yet and weve already had more people arrive this year than last year,' Mr Morrison told The Australian Online.

Mr Morrison said the governments announcement that it would suspend asylum claims from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka was clearly not working.

'Its an ineffective as it is discriminatory. It fails on every score. And it has been rightly criticised from all angles. It is an absolutely abomination of a policy. Because it was designed as spin and an election fix clearly it was never going to have any impact.'

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the problem of boat arrivals had been a problem for successive Australian governments.

'From 1976 to 1981 under the Fraser government, there were 2059 boat arrivals sparked by the fall of South Vietnam in 1975,' he told The Australian Online.

'From 1999 to 2001 under the Howard government there were 12,176 boat arrivals, including 5516 arrivals in 2001 alone.'

He also argued that the reintroduction of temporary protection visas would not solve the problem.

'Temporary protection visas (TPV) are not the answer.'

'TPV failed to address the problem of irregular maritime arrivals. Between 1999 and 2001 some 8455 people came to Australia.

'Over 90 percent of the 11,206 people granted a TPV end up staying permanently in Australia.'