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Tuesday, July 24 , 2012 - 6.45 GMT
Refugee flights proving costly for Australia


Flights to move asylum seekers between detention centres are costing up to $180,000 each as two more boats arrived in Australian waters yesterday, placing further stress on overcrowded facilities.

One boat carrying 123 passengers was found east of Christmas Island while the second sailed directly to Cocos Island from Sri Lanka with 36 people on board.

Passengers on the Sri Lankan boat will be flown to Christmas Island for processing, with two charter planes in the past week moving other asylum seekers from Cocos Island.

In just over three weeks this month, 1278 people have arrived on boats.

In the past 10 days, the Immigration Department has spent almost $500,000 flying asylum seekers to detention centres around the country.

More than 5100 asylum seekers have been flown off Christmas Island this year to prevent overcrowding.

One flight with Adagold Aviation between Christmas Island and Darwin cost $179,500, a government contract notice revealed. Another with company Alltrans between a detention centre at Curtin, near Derby in WA, and Perth cost $160,902 while an Adagold flight from Darwin to a detention centre at Scherger, near Weipa in North Queensland, cost $127,418.

“Labor’s failures have turned Christmas Island into one of the world’s most expensive transit lounges, our navy into a water taxi service and the mainland into one big backpacker hostel for people arriving on illegal boats,” opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said.

“Labor are even running their own asylum airline at taxpayers’ expense.”

Charter flights were used for larger groups of detainees or where commercial flights were unavailable, a spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said.

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