August 22, 2012
The Navy has intercepted two asylum seeker boats carrying more than 100 people.
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said patrol boat HMAS Bathurst, operating under the co-ordination of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, intercepted one suspected irregular entry vessel east of Christmas Island on Wednesday morning.
Initial indications suggest there are 70 people onboard.
Patrol boat HMAS Bundaberg intercepted the second suspected irregular entry vessel northwest of Ashmore Islands on Wednesday afternoon.
Initial indications suggest there are 37 people aboard.
This second vessel was initially detected by a Customs and Border Protection Dash-8 surveillance aircraft.
“Border Protection Command will now make arrangements for the people from both vessels to be transferred to Australian government authorities at Christmas Island,” Mr Clare said in a statement.
“At Christmas Island, they will undergo initial security, health and identity checks and their reasons for travel will be established.”
Mr Clare said people arriving by boat without a visa after August 13 ran the risk of transfer to a regional processing country.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott told ABC television that people coming on boats to Australia were seeking permanent residency rather than asylum.
Asked if it’s legal to seek asylum, Mr Abbott said: “If they were happy with temporary protection visas, then they might be able to argue better that they were asylum seekers”.
“But obviously the people who come to Australia by boat, they want permanent residency, that’s what they want,” he said.
“This government has given the people smugglers a business model by putting permanent residency on the table.”
Under domestic and international law, people seeking asylum can enter Australia with or without a visa.
Mr Abbott said people should gain entry to Australia through the front door, not the back door.
“If people want a migration outcome they should go through the migration channels,” he said.
© AAP 2012