17 February 2012

Australian immigration argument stirs up again as boat arrivals resume

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As seas between Indonesia and Australia begin to calm after a turbulent few weeks, asylum seekers resume attempts to reach Australian shores, once again inciting both political parties to attack each other over their differing Australian immigration policies.

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Calming seas have resutled in more boat arrivals reaching Australian shores, resparking debate between political parties.

After heavy winds and high waves, the Australian immigration authorities had relatively little to deal with as traffickers chose not to risk the trip, especially after the recent drowning of almost 200 asylum seekers.

But now the weather is calming, boats carrying asylum seekers have reached Australia once more with one carrying 121 asylum seekers arriving just hours before another carrying 69 reached Christmas Island.

Talks between political parties regarding immigration policy had come to a halt in January after disagreement over the best course of action and the stalemate looks set to continue with ministers from the ruling Labor Party and the opposing Coalition choosing to take the news of more boat arrivals as a chance to criticise the other.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said that while asylum seekers were provided with such care packages as rent free homes and facilities, more and more would be prepared to take the risk.

"The message is going out loud and clear to the people smugglers and their clients and potential customers: the red carpet is being rolled out, there is a welcome mat waiting for you here in Australia," said Mr Abbott.

"That is the last message the federal government should be sending."

Home Affairs Minister Jason Claire however, said the Coalition's negativity and refusal to negotiate the government's people swap deal with Malaysia was to blame.

"If the three months before Mr Abbott said no to our legislation [to send pre-processed asylum seekers to Malaysia in exchange for at risk refugees] in September, 12 boats with 764 people arrived.

"In the three months after he said no, 30 boats with 2,204 people arrived."

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