Australia captures another refugee boat
Sydney - Australian authorities intercepted a boat carrying 54 illegal immigrants Saturday near Ashmore Reef off the north coast. It was the eighth refugee boat to arrive so far this year, one more than the tally for the whole of 2008.
The 54 asylum seekers and two crew members were stopped 900 kilometres from Darwin and taken aboard the patrol boat HMAS Albany, They are being transported to Australia's Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island for processing.
On Wednesday 32 Sri Lankan migrants arrived off the west coast.
The week before that there was an explosion aboard an Indonesian fishing vessel carrying mostly Afghan immigrants off the west coast in which five people died and dozens were injured. The wooden boat carrying 47 refugees and two Indonesian crew members went up in flames while being escorted to Christmas Island by a navy vessel.
Fifteen boats have arrived since the government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd softened Canberra's treatment of illegal arrivals in July.
Under former prime minister John Howard, boats were intercepted and those on board were taken to Pacific island countries that hosted offshore immigration centres on Canberra's behalf. They were processed there under United Nations rules, which are stricter than Australia's own rules.
Howard's so-called Pacific Solution was credited with stopping the flow of unwanted arrivals but discontinued by Rudd who deemed it inhumane.
"Our surveillance is strong and targeted and officers from Customs and Border Protection and the Royal Australian Navy are working together to protect Australia from unauthorised arrivals," Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus said in a statement.
"The Australian government is committed to strong border security arrangements and will continue to deal effectively and appropriately with people-smugglers."(dpa)