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Thursday, June 14 , 2012 - 5.25 GMT
Asylum seekers arrivals stretch resources


The near simultaneous arrival of three asylum-seeker boats has stretched Australia's border patrols as the government concedes more vessels are expected direct from Sri Lanka.

Boats have been intercepted in the past two days at Ashmore Islands, Christmas Island and Cocos Island - spanning waters roughly three times the size of the Nullarbor Plain.

Sri Lankan police yesterday have stopped another vessel with 53 people, bound for Australia.

The boat carrying 35 people that arrived at Cocos Island yesterday morning is the fourth in as many weeks, reinforcing the small island cluster of Australian territory in the Indian Ocean as a target for asylum.

Customs and Border Protection command last night told The Age aircraft surveillance of the Cocos Island area was to be increased and more response boats would be deployed.

''There are likely to be more boat arrivals from Sri Lanka, including the possibility that they may arrive at Cocos Islands,'' a spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman said government agencies were now examining options to extend their presence on the islands for the immediate future.

Locals on Cocos Island were agitated yesterday after the latest arrival, with managers at the pub having to call in the cleaners to prepare for 35 asylum seekers expected to bunk down at the venue last night.

Demands are growing for the government to fix a derelict and empty quarantine station on the island, with five houses and 10 units to host asylum seekers on the island. Customs said longer-term solutions were being developed to minimise the impact on the community as much as possible.

The latest boats bring to 14 the number arriving in Australian territories in June alone, and well over 4000 people this year.

A boat was intercepted near Christmas Island on Tuesday evening carrying 74 people and another with 28 passengers was found near Ashmore Island.

Around 3000 kilometres separates the three islands.

The last of 32 asylum seekers found on Keeling Island - about 24 nautical miles from Cocos' main island - were flown to Christmas Island and disembarked wearing face masks.

Last week, a boat carrying 151 Tamils left Kerala bound for Australian territory, but Indian police intercepted the boat and put those on board into detention.






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Last modified: June 14, 2012.

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