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Australian Current Affairs

Australia says asylum seeker boat arrival not a new people smuggling strategy


Geraldton Boat PeopleImmigration Minister Brendan O’Connor believes an asylum-seeker vessel that made it to the mainland is an exception, and does not herald a new strategy by people-smugglers.

The Sri Lankan navy has warned the vessel’s arrival in the West Australian port of Geraldton will encourage more people to take the dangerous voyage, believing they can evade Australia’s maritime surveillance patrols.

Mr O’Connor said it wasn’t the first time a vessel had made it to the mainland undetected – 19 arrived during the Howard government.

He said it was a rare occurrence but the vastness of the Indian Ocean meant some vessels would inevitably slip through the net.

“I don’t think this is a new strategy but I need that to be confirmed by the agency. I think this vessel is … an exceptional case.

“We’ll examine the reasons this has occurred. We’ll certainly explain that publicly once we have confirmed that.”

Meanwhile Tony Abbott today affirmed the opposition’s support for the use of unmanned drones to detect asylum-seeker vessels.

It was reported today that a Coalition government would buy seven US Triton drones, and the equipment to support them, for $1.5 billion.

However, Mr Abbott said: “The basic problem here is not lack of equipment but lack of will.”

Sri Lanka’s navy operations commander, N. Attygalle, sounded the alarm over Australia’s border security regime as immigration authorities prepared to fly 66 Sri Lankan men, women and children who reached Geraldton on Tuesday to Christmas Island on a charter flight for processing.

“What is alarming about this is that they have passed Christmas Island, probably within 50 miles of it, and got almost within swimming distance of the Australian mainland without being detected,” Commodore Attygalle told The Australian.

“That’s bad news. That means people here will realise surveillance is not that good so they will think they can go also.”

Source: The Australian – Mainland boat arrival ‘an exceptional case’
 
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