21 February 2012

Australian immigration woes continue as largest asylum seeker boat yet arrives

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As the Australian immigration issue threatens to destabilise Australian politics, there is no respite in sight as the largest boat since December 2011 arrives in Australian waters.

Australian immigration

The rate of boat arrivals is harming Australian politics.

Australian immigration authorities intercepted a vessel carrying 143 asylum seekers and four crew members north of Christmas Island late on Monday night. The arrival is the largest since 6, December and the fourth largest overall under the current government.

The large vessel marks the seventh boat to be intercepted in just over a week while another 143 asylum seekers bring the 2012 total to 971: more than triple the number intercepted in the same period last year.

The number of boat arrivals has increased in the past week due to calmer waters between Indonesia, the main transit point for asylum seekers, and Christmas Island.

Australian immigration looks set to tip a delicate political situation as former prime minister Kevin Rudd is widely considered to be preparing a leadership challenge to current prime minister Julia Gillard.

As the argument wrangles on, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has once again taken the chance to blame the upswing in boat arrivals on the opposition's refusal to reinstate the government's people swap deal with Malaysia.

"[Leader of the Opposition Tony] Abbott clearly prefers to see more boats arrive because he believes it's in his political interest," said Mr Bowen.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison reiterated Mr Abbott's remarks that the current government had "laid the welcome mat" down for human traffickers.

"Ever since the Labor Government completely gave up on border protection and embraced community release in November last year, the rate of arrivals has increased even more," said Mr Morrison.

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