Row erupts over migrant boat arrivals in remote Australia

Row erupts over migrant boat arrivals in remote Australia
Row erupts over migrant boat arrivals in remote Australia

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - File photo of the Central Business District (CBD) skyline pictured at sunset in Sydney, Australia. ― Reuters pic

SYDNEY, Feb 17 ― Dozens of migrants have reportedly landed by boat in a remote part of Western Australia, igniting a political row over the country’s zero-tolerance border protection regime.

About three dozen foreign nationals were found by locals yesterday as they walked in separate groups by the coast in north-western Australia’s Dampier Peninsula, according to national broadcaster ABC.

“The conditions were very hot. Some of them seemed dizzy and wobbling a bit,” resident Melissa Smith was quoted as saying.

The migrants, some photographed as they rested in a park, said they were from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and one of them reportedly told the ABC he planned to seek asylum.

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The Australian Border Force confirmed it was “undertaking an operation in the northwest of Australia” but declined to give further details.

“Australia’s tough border protection policies means no one who travels unauthorised by boat will ever be allowed to settle permanently in Australia,” it said in a statement.

Under the stringent policy launched more than a decade ago, Australia has turned back boats and sent thousands of migrants to offshore “processing centres” on the Pacific islands of Manus and Nauru.

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The policy dramatically cut the number of attempted ocean crossings but has been severely criticised by human rights groups.

The latest arrivals sparked opposition accusations that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his centre-left Labour government had encouraged people smugglers by being weak on migration.

“The fact is that we’ve got a weak prime minister when it comes to our borders. He’s allowed this boat through,” conservative opposition leader Peter Dutton told reporters today.

“The prime minister reaps what he sows.”

Albanese said he had been briefed on the arrivals but would not discuss the details of “operational matters”.

“We do not seek to politicise national security issues and it is unfortunate when any politician seeks to do so,” he said.

An Air Nauru plane was seen at north-western Australia’s Broome International Airport today but it was unclear if any of the migrants were aboard, the ABC said. ― AFP

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