Asylum seeker debate reignited in Australia

The boat carrying about 60 asylum seekers had sent out a distress call. [AFP: file photo]

The boat carrying about 60 asylum seekers had sent out a distress call. [AFP: file photo]

Stefanie Menezes

Last Updated: Sat, 14 Apr 2012 14:33:00 +1000

The Australian Opposition says the Federal Government must do more to stop illegal immigration by sea after a boat feared capsized with 60 Afghan asylum seekers onboard was found without any loss of life.

Indonesian authorities discovered it beached on the south coast of Lombok.

The Australian Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen says a tragedy has been avoided and the incident is a reminder about the need for offshore processing.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott agrees, but says other deterrents like temporary protection visas also need to be put in place.

"As long as this government provides the people smugglers with a business model, there will be boats coming and there will be tragedies at sea," he said.

"The only way to stop the tragedy is to stop the boats and the only way to stop the boats is to have rigourous offshore processing, temporary protection visas and the option of turning boats around where it's safe to do so," he said.

Boat rescue

Indonesian authorities had been searching for about 60 Afghan asylum seekers who made a distress call to Australia late Wednesday.

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says authorities informed him the boat had been found on Saturday, beached on the south coast of Lombok, east of Bali.

Mr Bowen says it's a big relief.

"It's been a big worry over the last 36 hours or so about what would happen to this boat," Mr Bowen said.

He says the incident is another reminder for why the Australian Government needs to implement policies such as offshore processing to deter people from travelling to Australia by boat.

On Sunday a Singapore-registered tanker rescued around 120 Australia-bound asylum seekers - all males and mostly Afghans and some Iranians - from their sinking wooden boat.

They finally disembarked in Indonesia, after refusing to get off the docked tanker for two days, insisting they be allowed to continue their journey to Australia.

In December, a boat carrying about 250 mostly Afghan and Iranian asylum seekers sank in Indonesian waters on its way to Christmas Island, with only 47 people surviving.


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