The number of asylum seekers arriving in Australian waters this month is the worst since August 2001.
30 April 2012
Biggest boat in years marks worst Australian immigration month in decade
The arrival of an asylum seeking boat carrying 164 passengers, the most in two years, has exacerbated the Australian immigration row by making April the worst single month for arrivals since 2001.
The boat, carrying 164 asylum seekers and six crew and intercepted off the coast of Christmas Island by Australian immigration authorities, is the largest single interception since February 2010. The 164 asylum seekers the boat was carrying also take the month's total to 914, the largest single month of arrivals since August 2001.
The record number of asylum seekers marks a turbulent time during Australian politics with both sides of government reluctant to negotiate with the other over the best way of tackling the issue. The federal government still favours an offshore processing facility combined with a people swap deal with Malaysia. However, the people swap deal was struck down by the high court last and the government need the opposition to cooperate to revive the deal.
Meanwhile, the opposition favours a much tougher stance on immigration, Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott reiterated his commitment to 'turning back the boats' last week and favours a policy of re-opening a processing centre on the Pacific Island of Nauru.
The opposition claims the government's stance is too lax and encourages more asylum seekers while the government contends that the opposition's plans are dangerous and in breach of human rights laws.
Negotiations over a possible solution broke down in January and, while boats have continued to arrive in Australian waters, politicians have continued to trade insults; the most recent arrival is no different.
"If Mr Abbott is serious about stopping the boats he should stop the cheap and simple quotes and work with the government to implement offshore processing instead of blocking it," said Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.
"It's time for Tony Abbott to stop saying no and pass our legislation to allow offshore processing in Malaysia and Nauru," said Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare.
Meanwhile, the opposition maintained their assertion that the current Labor government's policies are too lenient and provide an incentive to people smugglers.
"Labor has simply given up on border protection and given in to the Greens, continuing to soften policy," said opposition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison.
"The only budget surplus the Gillard government has delivered has been for the people-smugglers, with illegal boat arrivals continuing to surge in 2012."
The opposition has continuously emphasised the perceived lack of control of Australia's borders, despite other opposing politicians, the Australian Greens, pointing out that even record numbers are minute in comparison to other countries.
However, the Coalition maintains that the immigration issue remains one of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's biggest failures:
"The Gillard government can no longer afford to ignore one of the principal roles of the commonwealth - protecting our borders," said opposition border spokesperson Michael Keenan.
The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge their Australia visa applications with the Australian Embassy London.