Australia's Boatpeople crisis grows as 246 arrive in three days

LABOR'S border security crisis is deepening, with the number of asylum-seekers arriving by boat over the weekend accounting for more than half the forecast arrivals for the month of June.

A large boat carrying 150 asylum-seekers and crew was intercepted yesterday north of Christmas Island by Customs and Border Protection officers.

It was the second boat to be detected in Australian waters over the weekend after another vessel carrying 87 passengers and one crew member was picked up on Saturday evening.

It is the third boat to arrive in the first three days of June, and brings the total number of asylum-seekers who have made the dangerous boat journey this month to 246.

This comes after 1176 asylum-seekers arrived last month - the highest number since August 2001, when the Howard government moved to implement the Pacific Solution after the Tampa crisis.

Department of Immigration officials confirmed to a Senate committee last month that Labor's budget is based on estimates that an average of 450 boatpeople will arrive each month over the next financial year.

But since Julia Gillard's bilateral agreement with Malaysia to send 800 asylum-seekers to Kuala Lumpur in exchange for taking 4000 processed refugees was scuttled by the High Court, and negotiations with the opposition to amend the Migration Act to allow for offshore processing broke down in November, an average of 733 asylum-seekers have arrived each month.

The Australian understands the Department of Immigration, along with the departments of Finance and Treasury, will review whether their estimates are appropriate in November's mid-year economic and fiscal outlook.

The opposition blamed the latest boat arrivals on the government's refusal to adopt the Coalition's Pacific Solution. "Labor is using their Malaysian people-swap as a political shield against their own accountability and responsibility as a government," opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said.

But Immigration Minister Chris Bowen put the blame on Tony Abbott. "Until the Coalition is prepared to allow offshore processing to occur, the Australian people can only conclude he prefers to see more boats arrive, because it's in Mr Abbott's political interests," Mr Bowen said.

The Law Council of Australia has meanwhile condemned the government for detaining in adult prisons up to 28 Indonesian minors accused of being involved in people-smuggling.

In a submission to a Senate inquiry, the law council said it was concerned there may be up to 28 cases where Indonesian minors have been held in detention facilities alongside adults.

"These cases, which have been brought to the attention of the public and the parliament by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Indonesian government, suggest serious inadequacies in relation to the age determination processes employed by Australian authorities and in relation to the approach taken to prosecuting and sentencing persons who claim to be minors for people-smuggling offences," the submission says.

The law council has raised concerns the government might be in breach of its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.


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