Australia says it turned back over 600 migrants at sea

Government reveals it sent back 20 boats carrying 633 asylum seekers since controversial border law enacted in 2013.

    Australia says it turned back over 600 migrants at sea
    Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that 46 asylum seekers from Vietnam were turned back last month [EPA]

    Australia has turned around more than 600 asylum seekers trying to reach its shores on 20 separate boats since enacting controversial new border controls in December 2013, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has said.

    Asylum seekers, mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Sri Lanka have tried to cross Australian borders in the past two years, travelling by boats over Indonesia.

    "The fact that today we celebrate that we have not had a successful people smuggling venture in a year, and that over the course of the last 18 months or so we have turned back 20 boats and stopped 633 people from arriving in our country is a significant achievement of the [Tony] Abbott government," Dutton told reporters in Sydney.

    Around 50,000 refugees arrived on roughly 800 boats under former Labor Party governments between 2007 and 2013, Dutton said, underscoring the sharp decline since the turn-back policy was enacted.

    No one processed for asylum in Nauru or Papua New Guinea is eligible to be settled in Australia, even if they are found to be a genuine refugee, under the harsh policies introduced by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

    Dutton said that 46 asylum seekers from Vietnam were turned back last month.

    "We have a very clear policy in place and that is that people who seek to come to our country by boat illegally will not settle in our country and so we have worked on a bilateral basis with the Vietnamese government.

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    In June, reports that Australia paid people-smugglers bound for Australia thousands of dollars to turn their boat back to Indonesia caused tensions with Jakarta, plunging relations to their lowest point in more than a year.

    Even those who manage to reach Australian land are not given any type of protection by the government.

    The UN and human rights groups have expressed their concerns over severe policies of the Australian government under Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has described the measures as necessary to prevent deaths at the sea.

    Australia has been a desired destination of asylum seekers for years now, even though the number of those trying to cross the border has never reached the number of refugees flooding to Europe.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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