Asylum Issue Looms Again For Gillard

Asylum issue looms again for Gillard

Updated Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:54am AEST

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said there was “no quick fix” to the refugee issue as officials confirmed that another boat load of asylum seekers had been detected off Christmas Island overnight.

The latest arrival – the first boat to make Australian waters since the start of the election campaign – came as a Somali community leader claimed that extremists were trying to enter Australia via boats from Malaysia and Indonesia.

And Pakistani immigration officials said the Federal Government's freeze on asylum applications from Afghan nationals had done nothing to stop the flow of Australia-bound refugees across their own border.

The latest arrival was announced by Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor this morning.

He said the boat appeared to have 40 passengers and three crew on board and had been intercepted north of Flying Fish Cove.

Border Protection Command escorted the boat to the cove amid rough weather and then boarded the vessel. The asylum seekers now face security, identity and health checks on Christmas Island.

Fronting a news conference in Western Sydney as the news broke, Ms Gillard told reporters there was no quick fix to strengthening border protection.

“We have a long-term solution through developing a regional framework and a regional processing centre,” she said.

“It will take hard work and patience and determination to deliver that long-term solution which would take away the very product which people smugglers sell.”

But Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says only the Coalition has the policies to fix the problem.

“It may be the first boat during the campaign but it's not the first boat under Labor's policies,” he said.

“There's been 148 boats that have now arrived with over 7,000 people on them.

“That's a record of absolute failure and their never-never solution that they claim to have on East Timor will never ever happen – and the Australian people know it.”

Scholar's warning

Earlier a Somali scholar told the ABC that some extremists from Somalia and other countries are trying to enter Australia by infiltrating the immigration system.

The warning came from Islamic scholar Dr Herse Hilole, who is a leader in the Somali community in Australia.

He said that rather than going back to countries like Somalia to train with militant groups, extremists were trying to enter Australia via boats from Malaysia and Indonesia.

“We are worried about those who are coming to our country from these countries through boat people,” he said.

“I believe that at least some of them will at least try to sneak to Australia through boat people … through the immigration system.

“Australia must have a clear policy about this because these extremists and terrorists will try to reach Australia through boat people.

“The Government presently in Malaysia mentioned this problem in the universities among students.”

Dr Hilole also called on Australia's newly-arrived Muslim communities to fully participate in next month's federal elections.

“Democracy is one mechanism that we try to achieve social justice and as long as we can achieve that, it should be in line with Islam,” he said.

“There is nothing wrong with democracy as far as I know from Islamic point of view. I don't think they will have any problem with this election.”

Meanwhile Pakistani immigration officials say the Federal Government's six-month freeze on processing new applications from Afghan asylum seekers has failed to stop the flow.

Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) says the measure has not delivered any change in the numbers of Afghans travelling through Pakistan and hoping to get to Australia

Pakistani officials now want Australian permission to interrogate asylum seekers on Christmas Island in an attempt to break people smuggling rings in Pakistan



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Audio: Major parties call for sustainable population growth (The World Today)
Audio: Asylum freeze having hardly any impact: Pakistan (AM)
Audio: What does Gillard stand for: Hockey (AM)
Audio: Full interview: Herse Hilole (ABC News)
Audio: Killing Workchoices my greatest acheivement: Gillard (AM)
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Related Link: Special coverage: Australia Votes 2010