Federal Politics

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Asylum seeker numbers surge

The number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat has leapt above 1000 this month with three fresh  interceptions. 

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said two vessels carrying 52 people and 69 people were intercepted north west of Christmas Island yesterday.

A third boat, carrying about 117 people was intercepted north west of the island overnight.

According to Customs, 1,102 people have arrived in Australia by boat in June.

This year, 62 boats carrying 4,484 passengers have been intercepted in Australian waters.

This is close to the level for the 2011 calendar year, which saw 69 boats carrying 4,565 people.


The surge in boat arrivals comes as the stand-off continues between the government and opposition on offshore processing.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said today that Immigration Minister Chris Bowen should call Nauru to re-open an offshore processing centre on the island.
"The government has totally lost control of [the] borders," he told reporters in Canberra.
"Everyone knows what needs to be done to stop the boats," he said, noting this meant "rigorous" offshore processing at Nauru, temporary protection visas and turning boats around "where it is safe" to do so.

In response,  Immigration Minister Chris Bowen called on the Opposition to work with the government to legislate for offshore processing.
“They need to reverse their position on offshore processing legislation, stop saying ‘no’ and put the national interest ahead of their personal political interest," he said in a statement.
Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the budget for boat arrivals was spiralling "out of control"  and that the government should "front up" and tell Australians about the budget implications.
Department of Immigration officials have told a Senate committee that the budget is based on an average of 450 asylum seekers arriving by boat per month.

Last year, the government planned to send 800 asylum seekers arriving by boat to Malaysia in return for accepting 4000 already-processed asylum seekers from that country. The policy was struck down by the High Court last August.

Labor was then unable to reach an agreement with the Coalition (who opposed the Malaysia move and wanted processing in Nauru) or the Greens (who oppose offshore processing) to legislate around the decision.

The government and the Coalition met before Christmas to try and negotiate a compromise, but the talks broke down in January.

The government said it was prepared to consider sending asylum seekers to Nauru but the Coalition would not give up its opposition to sending asylum seekers to Malaysia.