11 April 2012

Single day asylum seeker record rouses Australian immigration row

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Two boats have arrived in Australian waters carrying a total of 255 asylum seekers, prompting politicians to once again take aim at each other over the ongoing Australian immigration issue.

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The Australian immigration situation has caused some of the most friction between political parties in recent months.

The boats, carrying 99 and 156 passengers respectively, were intercepted on Tuesday night and the asylum seekers were taken to Christmas Island to be processed by Australian immigration officials.

While the number of total arrivals has decreased per year since a record high in 2010, the Opposition claims the 255 asylum seekers is a record single day high, and highlights the issues of the current Labor government failing to stop the flow of illegal immigrants.

Opposition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison said the government's decision to reduce the number of asylum seekers in detention centres by granting them a temporary, or bridging, Australia visa and placing them in the community encouraged asylum seekers to go to Australia.

"Labor have removed every brick in the wall of border protection they inherited from the Howard government," said Mr Morrison.

"This is known [by asylum seekers]. It's out there. The government softens policy and this is the result."

The government once again blamed the opposition for its reluctance to resume the negotiations which collapsed in January to come up with legislative solutions to the issue.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the two boat arrivals were the "17th and 18th boats since [Opposition Leader] Tony Abbott refused to cooperate with the government to prevent people from risking their lives on dangerous boat journeys to Australia."

"While the obstructionist Coalition tries to deflect the blame for these boat arrivals, we all know what people smugglers are really taking advantage of is Tony Abbott's negativity - his addiction to saying no," said Mr Bowen.

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