Arrival of boat people seasonal, with new tactics, says Evans

By Katie Bradford
December 17, 2008
Article from: Australian Associated Press

THE Federal Government denies Australia is becoming a bigger target for illegal boat people, despite six boats making it into Australian waters in recent months.

A boat carrying 37 asylum seekers of unknown nationality was intercepted by the navy yesterday about 110 nautical miles north-east of Darwin.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans admitted a number of boat people had arrived in Australia's waters recently.

"That's partly due to the season, but partly due to the fact there has been some new tactics deployed," Senator Evans said.

Senator Evans insisted the Government was "actively" trying to combat people smuggling.

"We have seen a number in recent months, but the arrivals are about the same as last year and there's no large increase in numbers, but we have seen a spate of arrivals in a short period of time. The Government is concerned about that and we are doing everything we can to deter people smuggling and we will certainly be prosecuting people with the full force of the law for people smuggling activities."

Senator Evans denied Australia had become a bigger target.

"If you look at Italy, they've had 30,000 arrivals this year, I think Greece has had 15,000, we've had 150 people, so we've got to put that in perspective.

"Australia is a highly desirable location and people smugglers can make a lot of money, so that pressure is on."

The Government was working strongly with Indonesia to stop people leaving on boats, Senator Evans said.

"Indonesia is faced at the moment with an influx of particularly Afghan refugees, as the situation in Afghanistan worsens, so there is pressure on Asia and we're seeing more people smuggling activity."

He said most of the asylum seekers were coming from Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, as people tried to flee violence in those countries.

The Indonesian Government has recently extradited a well-known people smuggler to Australia, as well as capturing another person believed to be responsible for some of the recent arrivals.

The human rights group Project SafeCom said it was likely more boat people would try to make it into Australia in the coming summer months. It maintains the Government's treatment of asylum seekers on the Christmas Island detention centre remains unfair.


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