SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA (BNO NEWS) -- The Australian Navy on early Friday intercepted a boat carrying nearly 100 asylum seekers, bringing the number of asylum seekers caught in one week to 464, the government reported. It indicates a sharp increase in the number of new arrivals.
HMAS Wollongong, operating under the control of Australia's Border Protection Command, intercepted the suspected people smuggling vessel northeast of Christmas Island on early Friday morning. It was initially detected by a Royal Australian Air Force maritime patrol aircraft.
Korena Flanagan, a spokeswoman for Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare, said the vessel was carrying a total of 99 passengers and two crew members on board. "Border Protection Command will now make arrangements for the passengers to be transferred to Christmas Island, where they will undergo initial security, health and identity checks and their reasons for travel will be established," she said.
The office of Clare also reported that the HMAS Childers intercepted another people smuggling vessel northwest of Ashmore Island on Thursday. There were a total of 60 people on board who were also transferred to Christmas Island, where all asylum seekers are taken to and detained.
So far this year, the Australian Navy has intercepted 2,518 irregular maritime arrivals (IMAs), most of them coming from Afghanistan and Iran who use Indonesia as a transit region. As of March 31, a total of 4,197 people are being held in immigration facilities while 1,712 people have been approved for a residence determination to live in the community.
Australia's Migration Act 1958 requires people who are not Australian citizens and who are unlawfully in Australia to be detained. This law has been heavily criticized by the United Nations and human rights organizations as many asylum seekers are in detention for months. In 2010, a total of 4,612 irregular maritime arrivals were intercepted by the Australian Navy.
However, the boat journeys made by asylum seekers are not without risk. In December 2010, at least 30 people were killed when a boat carrying more than 90 asylum seekers sank off the coast of Christmas Island. Forty-two people were rescued, while an unknown number of people remain missing.
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