Stupid do-gooder Kevvy has opened the floodgates
BORDER Protection Command is scrambling to reinforce its patrols after the interception yesterday of the sixth people-smuggling boat to be caught in Australian waters since the Immigration regime was softened five months ago. The Indonesian boat, the biggest load of the year with 47 suspected asylum-seekers and a crew of three, was spotted yesterday off Broome in international waters by an RAAF Orion P3-C surveillance plane. Its arrival comes despite Kevin Rudd's claims last week that there had been no surge in unauthorised vessels this year, and at a time when the Royal Australian Navy is about to send thousands of sailors on extended Christmas leave.
HMAS Maryborough apprehended the vessel as it crossed into Australian waters. The patrol boat was escorting the vessel to Christmas Island, where the asylum-seekers - understood to be Afghans - will be detained and processed. A boat carrying 35 Afghan asylum-seekers and five crew was intercepted off Ashmore Reef - 600km north of Broome - on Thursday. They arrived at Christmas Island yesterday. The week before, a group of 12 Sri Lankans were caught off Steep Point near Carnarvon, on November 27. The total number of asylum-seekers detained this year stands at 127. Last year, 150 arrived on five boats, and in 2006, 60 asylum-seekers arrived in six boats.
The latest arrivals showed there was a "real problem" with border security, Malcolm Turnbull said yesterday. "We have seen six boats arrive since August, since the Government abolished temporary protection visas," the Opposition Leader said. "They were introduced in 1999 specifically for the purpose of discouraging people smuggling. This sixth vessel is a ... wake-up call to Mr Rudd that his policy in August has been a mistake."
On Friday, Mr Rudd's new National Security Adviser, former SAS commander Duncan Lewis, vowed to tackle the people smuggling problem "at source". "The issue of unauthorised boat arrivals is an enduring one for this country," he warned.
Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus yesterday announced a boost in patrol capability off the Top End and northwest coast. "The Government will also provide an additional navy vessel and surveillance aircraft to protect Australia's offshore maritime areas from illegal activity, including people smuggling," Mr Debus said. "The increase along with existing defence and customs assets already operating, will provide a significant deterrent to anyone seeking to break Australia's maritime laws or enter Australia illegally."
The surge in people smuggling boats follows an announcement last month by the navy of three months' leave for officers and other ranks over Christmas, a story which gained international prominence. The navy denied operational capability was being undermined but the announcement left an impression the RAN was shutting down for the festive season.
Border Protection Command's 12 aircraft fly more than 2400 missions every year and the new measures meant there were 17 navy and Customs vessels patrolling year round, Mr Debus said.
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