Australia captures two more asylum-seeker boat

AustraliaSydney- Two boats carrying more than 70 asylum-seekers were intercepted by Royal Australian Navy patrol boats Wednesday off Australia's north coast. The seizures bring to 10 the number of boats to arrive this year. Only seven boats arrived last year and Australian officials are worried that many more will come bringing mostly Afghan and Middle Eastern illegal immigrants.

Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus said the latest batch would be sent to the immigration detention centre on Australia's Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island for health and security checks.

On Tuesday, four asylum-seekers were found on Deliverance Island, about 55 kilometres off Papua New Guinea, and are being detained by Australian authorities.

Earlier this month an Indonesian fishing vessel carrying mostly Afghan asylum-seekers caught fire, killing five and leaving dozens injured. The wooden boat carrying 47 asylum-seekers and two Indonesian crew members went up in flames while being escorted to Christmas Island by a navy vessel.

Seventeen 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 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.

The so-called Pacific Solution was credited with stopping the flow of unwanted arrivals but discontinued by Rudd because it was deemed inhumane.(dpa)