08 May 2012

Australian immigration row reaches new low as arrivals reach new high

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The interception of three boats carrying over 300 asylum seekers by Australian immigration authorities has taken the total number of arrivals to over 2,500 in 2012, sparking a fresh round of insults between politicians.

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The Australian immigration issue continues to spiral as boats continue to arrive.

Three separate boats carrying 105, 138 and 64 passengers respectively were intercepted by Australian immigration authorities on Sunday, with the passengers being escorted to the detention centre on Christmas Island for processing.

The arrivals have marked the one year anniversary of the failed Malaysia Solution, the incumbent Labor government's proposed solution to the asylum seeker issue which would see 800 asylum seekers taken to Malaysia in exchange for 4,000 processed refugees.

The proposal was struck down by the Australian High Court in 2011 and the issue has failed to progress since; the government has been stuck in negotiations with opposition politicians since January.

The opposing Coalition, led by Tony Abbott, have favoured a tougher line and promised to make turning boats around a 'core policy' as well as the reinstating of a controversial Australia visa process, which has been widely criticised as in violation of UN conventions.

Instead of offering to compromise on each other's respective positions, Australian politicians, from both government and opposition, have repeatedly blamed each other for the deteriorating situation.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said Mr Abbott's refusal to discuss legislation changes was purely about political popularity:

"Both parties believe offshore processing is the best way to prevent dangerous boat journeys, but all Tony Abbott is concerned about is negativity and scoring cheap political points."

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare agreed with Mr Bowen and accused Mr Abbott of risking a similar disaster which saw 200 people onboard an asylum seeking boat drown last December.

The Opposition maintain that the government is to blame for the current predicament and has labelled the issue Prime Minister Julia Gillard's biggest failure.

"More people have turned on illegal boats in the last 24 years than in the last six years of the Howard government," said opposition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison. "These three boats are yet another milestone of border protection failure under Julia Gillard."

While a compromise fails to be reached, boats continue to arrive, and as Indonesia announced in January, it will shortly be removing Sri Lanka from its 'red list', making it easier for Sri Lankans to enter Indonesia legally.

Indonesia maintains this is because Sri Lankan security as well as its economy has improved drastically although, as Sri Lanka is one of the main source countries for asylum seekers in Australia, this has led many to expect the Australian immigration situation to worsen when the change takes place.


The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge their applications with the Australian Embassy.

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