Smugglers rush asylum seekers on boats before crackdown

The latest boat arrival takes the number of  asylum seekers to well over 7000 so far this year.
Source: The Daily Telegraph

THE recent spike in asylum seeker boats could be because people smugglers are running a “closing-down sale” before parliament takes tough action, Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare says.

The latest boat to arrive had 211 people on board, all of whom have been taken to Christmas Island.

The federal government will receive a report by former defence chief Angus Houston on Monday on how to break the people-smuggling trade, with the latest boat taking the total arrivals this year to well over 7000 people – and 22,000 since Labor came to power in 2007.

It came as the navy confirmed one of its overworked patrol boats had significant cracks in its engine room, while two others had minor cracks.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has urged the Greens and Coalition to seriously consider the Houston report’s recommendations and work with the government to legislate a solution.

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Mr Clare said yesterday those running the boats were watching developments in Australia.

“People smugglers are pitching the idea of a closing-down sale,” Mr Clare said.

“They’ve been telling people that it’s only a matter time before the Australian parliament passes legislation that makes their job more difficult and encouraging people to get on to boats.”

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the government needed to adopt the Howard government’s policy of processing on Nauru and temporary protection visas.

“There was a policy that worked. It was scrapped by this government and now we have this unfolding disaster on our borders,” he said. “We don’t need an expert panel to tell us what our policy should be.”

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