Tony Abbott 'Very Satisfied' as Australia Marks 6 Months With No Asylum Seeker Arrivals
By Reissa Su | June 20, 2014 3:41 PM EST
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has felt "very satisfied" with no arrivals of boat people in six months. The most recent boat carrying asylum seekers may have arrived six months ago, but Abbott warned there's no "mission accomplished."
Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott addresses during the Commonwealth Government Meeting (CHOGM) opening ceremony in Colombo November 15, 2013.
After winning the election in September 2013, the Abbott government had vowed to stop asylum seeker boats coming from countries in Southeast Asia. According to reports, hundreds of people have died along the way in their rickety boats.
Under Australia's offshore detention policy, asylum seeker boats are being turned back to Indonesia while refugees are sent to Nauru and Papua New Guinea for processing and resettlement.
Abbott said he is "not declaring victory," but praised Immigration Minister Scott Morrison for an outstanding job.
In a statement on June 19, the prime minister said six months without seeing boat people is a "very satisfactory milestone" for Australia. According to historical figures, the previous Labour government in the same six-month period in 2012-13 saw 190 boats with 12,773 asylum seekers illegally landing on Australian shores.
Abbott refused to reveal the number of boats sent back under the Operation Sovereign Borders led by the military. He said the last thing he wanted to do was to compromise the operations by divulging information for people-smugglers to use and risk people's lives.
He assured the public that a full account of the operations will be released one day.
The boats turn-back has caused tension between Indonesia and Australia after the Australian navy admitted breaching Indonesian territorial waters. After the turn-back, the Indonesian minister launched another verbal attack and criticized the Abbott government's boats policy.
Indonesian authorities had previously confirmed the interception of two boats carrying asylum seekers by Australian naval vessels. About 20 passengers were placed in one wooden boat pushed back to Indonesia's waters.
The United Nations and several refugee advocates have repeatedly criticized Australia's asylum seeker policy. International critics have condemned the plight of detainees in Australia's offshore detention centers due to harsh conditions.
In March, Abbott had declared "victory" over asylum seekers and claimed he had stopped the boats of asylum seekers. The Australian prime minister said keeping the boats away can be done despite critics who "scoffed," adding the government could not do it.
Abbott's claim came after two Australian staff of G4S, the security contractor hired by the government, have become suspects in the violent death of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati on Manus Island.
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