Australian border patrol vessels have intercepted three boats carrying more than 250 asylum seekers in waters near Christmas Island, officials said.

An Australian naval ship responded to an appeal for assistance from a boat carrying about 175 people early on Sunday, according to the country's home ministry.

Another naval vessel later intercepted a boat carrying 44 people, while a customs vessel stopped a ship with 38 people aboard early on Monday, the ministry said. 

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Thomas, reporting from Sydney, said some of those on the first boat intercepted had used their mobile phones to call for help.

“At least 174 have already claimed asylum in Australia. They will join a very long queue of asylum seekers languishing in detention centres right across this country,” he said.

Compulsory detention for those entering the country unofficially is a key Australian government policy, our correspondent said.

"The aim is to put people off coming on rickety boats from Indonesia in the first place, and instead apply from abroad through proper channels,” he said.

Border patrol officials said the passengers would be transferred to Christmas Island to undergo security, health and identity checks.

More than 3,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Australia so far this year.

Asylum seekers have flocked to Australia in hope of a better future, with about 300 people reaching its shore earlier this month.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies