Rudd condemns 'scum' smugglers

Australia's prime minister defended his government's refugee and immigration policy.

    The death toll from a blast on a boat carrying asylum-seekers off Australia's coast is expected to rise [AFP]

    Rudd defended the government's policy, saying: "This government is absolutely committed to dedicating all resources necessary to...maintain a hardline, tough and targeted strategy for maintaining this country's border protection."

    Border protection

    Rudd said that his government had dedicated more resources to combat traffickers  paid by asylum-seekers - many of whom come from Indonesia - than any other past Australian government. In Australia, convicted human traffickers currently face a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.

    In July 2008, the government eased the strict immigration policies by changing the system which regularly held asylum seekers, including children, in detention centres for years on end. Since then, 13 boats carrying more than 400 people have arrived in Australian waters.

    Today's law requires that asylum-seekers are held on Australia's Christmas Island and that their cases, which must be expedited, are reviewed by an ombudsman every six months.

    The cause of the explosion is not yet known, but the premier of Western Australia has said that the boat had been doused with fuel before the blast, suggesting the passengers had sabotaged their own vessel.

    Philip Ruddock, the former immigration minister, told The Australian newspaper on Friday that intercepted boats were often disabled by the passengers who believed the act would prevent them from being sent back to their country of origin.

    Indonesia's migrants

    Australia has seen a growing trend in illegal arrivals by sea. Refugees fleeing from Afghanistan and Iraq have provoked a national debate about how to treat refugees.

    Also on Friday, Indonesia detained 70 illegal migrants from Afghanistan with plans to travel to Australia in the second such arrest in recent months.

    Two women and four children were among those held in Cilegon in Java Island just south of Jakarta, R Muchdor, the director of investigation and enforcement at Indonesia's immigration office, said.

    As Indonesia struggles to cope with an increased number of migrants this year, Canberra and Jakarta have been holding ongoing negotiations on how to revise current laws to tackle human-trafficking.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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