Four boats in 48 hours!
Arrival of four more "asylum-seeker" boats shows the utter policy failure of Australia's Leftist government. At that rate Australia's sea borders are looking more porous than the U.S./Mexico border. Is Australia ready for 12 million illegals too? At least the Mexicans come to work. The Afghans come only to be supported by the Australian taxpayer
THE arrival of four asylum boats in 48 hours has pushed numbers in the Christmas Island detention centre to an apparent record. The centre has been forced to operate well beyond its carrying capacity.
With Immigration Minister Chris Bowen flying to East Timor today to begin talks on a regional processing centre, his department has revealed 350 asylum-seekers are being housed in tents.
According to the department, there were 2697 detainees on Christmas Island yesterday, with more on the way following the interception of four asylum boats, at least one of which has yet to unload its passengers.
The centre, which was designed to accommodate 400 people, has undergone successive reconfigurations to house the growing number of detainees.
Falling refugee success rates and the Rudd government's freeze on new Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum claims resulted in a blowout in detention numbers. But even at its capacity of about 2500, the centre is over its limit.
A departmental spokeswoman could not say yesterday if Christmas Island was at record capacity.
But in the period leading up to the Rudd government's decision in April to move detainees to the mainland, numbers on Christmas Island were about 2300, suggesting the facility had hit a new high.
Mr Bowen acknowledged yesterday there were "significant strains" on detention centres. "I've announced some short-term measures to deal with that. I'll be announcing some longer-term measures in the not-too-distant future to deal with those pressures," he added.
Mr Bowen will fly to Dili today to discuss the regional proposal with East Timor's President, Jose Ramos-Horta, and senior officials. From there he will fly to Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur for talks aimed at bolstering arrangements for managing the asylum flow.
Despite vocal rejection of the idea by East Timor's opposition parties, Mr Bowen said Canberra had received "encouraging feedback" from Dili about the proposal, announced by Julia Gillard in the lead-up to the federal election. "It's a big issue for East Timor -- it would be a significant development for them, and they obviously have issues they want to work through," Mr Bowen told the Nine Network yesterday. "But, certainly, President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister (Xanana) Gusmao have indicated they are very interested in talking it through."
Since Friday, authorities have intercepted four boats, two of which were lashed together. Their arrival has edged Australia closer to another record -- the highest number of unauthorised boatpeople in a calendar year. A spokeswoman for Border Protection Command said 4924 passengers and 270 crew had arrived this year, bringing the number of unauthorised arrivals to 5194.
According to the Parliamentary Library, the highest number of illegal boat arrivals on record occurred in 2001, when 43 boats carried 5516 people to Australia, not including the crews.