Australian politics have been dominated by the ongoing asylum seeker issue in recent weeks, yet while the deadlock continues, the aftermath is already beginning to be felt.
Australian immigration policy has consistently remained a controversial topic since asylum seeking boats first began arriving at the turn of the century. However, the debate reached a peak last week following the capsizing of two boats and the resultant deaths of as many as 90 people.
Politicians debated possible solutions to the issue for over 12 hours in both Houses of the Australian parliament and a compromised bill even managed to successfully passed a vote in the House of Representatives. However, the bill was quickly struck down in the Senate and politicians departed for the winter break without a solution.
While politicians resume their bitter war of words, blaming each other for the ongoing situation, the aftermath of the last weeks' events is beginning to be felt.
The search for survivors after an asylum seeker boat bound for Australia has been called off after just 110 of the estimated 200 people on board have been found...read more.
The latest Australian immigration figures have confirmed that June has been the worst month on record for the arrival of irregular boat arrivals after 1,664 people arrived on 24 separate boats...read more.
Despite an estimated 90 deaths at sea in the past fortnight, even more asylum seekers are risking the perilous journey to Australia to capitalise on Australian politicians' inability to find a suitable solution...read more.
The Tony Abbott-led opposition are reportedly considering new Australian immigration legislation which would use a naval troop carrier or a hired cruise liner as a temporary offshore processing centre....read more.
Search called off as death toll reaches 90
The search was abandoned after
just 17 bodies were recovered.
The search for survivors after an asylum seeker boat bound for Australia has been called off after just 110 of the estimated 200 people on board have been found.
Indonesian authorities received a distress call on Thursday reporting that an asylum seeking boat had capsized less than 130 miles off the coast of Christmas Island.
After Australian authorities requested permission to enter Indonesian waters to assist with the search, reports claimed 40 people clung to the capsized hull of the ship with the rest of the passengers in the water.
Authorities managed to rescue 110 of the passengers, who were taken to Christmas Island for medical treatment; 17 bodies were also taken to the island's detention centre where a makeshift morgue was erected.
The search was called off on Monday while counselling was offered to the survivors.
"Hopefully it will help bring closure to the families who have lost loved ones," said one of the 20 officers brought to the island to help with the operation.
The Australian Federal Police has confirmed it will be conducting a criminal investigation into the causes of the accident.
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Australian immigration figures confirm record breaking month
June 2012 has been the busiest
on record for Australian
The latest Australian immigration figures have confirmed that June has been the worst month on record for the arrival of irregular boat arrivals after 1,664 people arrived on 24 separate boats.
The boats have been arriving in Australian waters in increasing numbers since last year when the government's proposed deterrent, a people swap deal with Malaysia, was struck down by the High Court. Without a policy in place to convince asylum seekers not to risk the dangerous journey, more and more boats carrying even more people have arrived.
June 2012 marks the worst month on record ever, surpassing the previous record set in August 2001 when 1,645 people arrived, including over 400 on a single boat alone during the Tampa affair.
While this month is the worst on record for the number of arrivals, it is also one of the worst in recent years due to the sinking of two Australia asylum seeking boats in Indonesian waters, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 94 people.
The worsening issue has fuelled a bitter debate among politicians who have remained in a deadlock since talks broke down in January. The disasters last week provided the impetus for politicians to resume the discussions but despite a compromised bill proposed by an independent MP successfully passing through the House of Representatives, it was struck down in the Senate after a gruelling and lengthy debate.
The Australian parliament has now broken for winter and will not convene again until mid-August. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has ordered the formation of an independent committee to formulate a new solution to the issue but in the meantime, boats continue to arrive.
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Asylum seekers in Indonesia are
reportedly 'desperate' to board an
Australia bound boat.
Asylum seekers take advantage of political deadlock
Despite an estimated 90 deaths at sea in the past fortnight, even more asylum seekers are risking the perilous journey to Australia to capitalise on Australian politicians' inability to find a suitable solution.
The capsizing of two separate boats in Indonesian waters less than a week apart prompted an urgent response to the ongoing asylum seeking issue in Australia yet, despite over 12 hours of debate and a potential solution making it through the House of Representatives, politicians broke for the six week winter break without a solution.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has established a specialist committee to formulate a new solution for when parliament reconvenes but in the meantime, asylum seekers have been arriving in record numbers.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics confirmed that June had been the worst month on record last week for boat arrivals and the trend has continued with as many as four boats in just 24 hours arriving in Australian waters towards the end of last week, with a fifth and sixth coming behind.
Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Collective, says people in Indonesia are desperate to board Australia bound boats as soon as possible before the Australian government can put in place a suitable deterrent.
"People are quite anxious to get on a boat," said Mr Rintoul, before the government can "slam the door shut".
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Coalition floats tentative Australian immigration idea
Tony Abbott's Coalition is confident
the processing centre on Nauru will
The Tony Abbott-led opposition are reportedly considering new Australian immigration legislation which would use a naval troop carrier or a hired cruise liner as a temporary offshore processing centre.
The asylum seeker issue has dominated Australian politics in recent weeks after the capsizing of two Australian bound asylum seeking boats killed at least 90 people. A solution to the problem is yet to be found as politicians from the government and opposition continue to oppose the others' proposals.
The government wants to send asylum seekers to Malaysia in exchange for refugees while the opposition wants to reinstate temporary protection visas (TPV) and process people offshore in Nauru. The government argues that the TPV scheme cruelly leaves asylum seekers without a long term solution while the opposition refuses to allow processing in Malaysia as the country is not a signatory to the UN's Refugee Convention.
In an attempt to compromise, the government offered to reopen the processing centre on Nauru which was closed during the Rudd ministry. While a solution looks set to remain beyond the grasp, the opposing Coalition remains confident that the centre on Nauru will eventually be reopened.
Government ministers claimed in January that the centre would need significant investment for it to be reopened, saying the centre had suffered badly since it had been abandoned.
However, the Coalition has promised to "do what we have to to stop the boats" and is reportedly considering a proposal which would see a naval troop carrying vessel or even a hire cruise liner to stand in as an offshore processing centre for 12 weeks while the repair work in Nauru is carried out.
"The government still has no asylum seeker policy," said opposition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison. "Julia Gillard is still blaming [Leader of the Opposition] Tony Abbott for her government's failure and the boats keep on coming."
Ms Gillard last week established a committee to find a solution to the issue and the prime minister has urged Mr Abbott to heed the committee's advice.
"What kind of person is it who watches that misery, watches that pain, sees that death, hears the advice from experts and won't change their minds one millimetre, won't accept that advice at all?" said Ms Gillard.
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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau.
©Visa Bureau 2003-2013