17 Aug 2012

New law sparks rush of asylum-seekers to Australia

9:43 pm on 17 August 2012

There has been a sharp increase in asylum-seeker arrivals in Australia ahead of new laws coming into effect.

Eight boats carrying 454 people have arrived since the government announced its new policy on Monday.

Five boats came in a 24-hour period as the government rushed its offshore processing legislation through the Senate on Thursday, the ABC reports.

But the government will not say what will happen to these recent arrivals, only repeating that they run the risk of being transferred to an offshore processing country.

The coalition says they must be sent to Nauru or Papua New Guinea.

The government says the surge in arrivals is not surprising, as people-smugglers are trying to make as much money as possible.

It maintains that all of those who have arrived after the deadline run the risk of being transferred to a regional processing country.

On Thursday, several amendments by the Greens seeking extra human rights protections and to stop asylum-seekers from being held offshore for more than 12 months were voted down by the coalition and the government in the Senate.

The Greens also unsuccessfully sought a sunset clause so the law would last for only two years.

The Government denies it is a return to Howard-era policies and is hopeful that processing centres can be up and running on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea within a month.

A panel headed by former Defence chief Angus Houston on Monday recommended reopening the centres as part of more than 20 measures to end the asylum seeker stand-off.

The ABC reports the return to a policy the Rudd government dumped in 2008 represents a major backdown by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her government.