11 Jan 2014

Govt resisting pressure on asylum secrecy

2:02 pm on 11 January 2014

The federal government in Australia is resisting pressure to detail its asylum-seeker tow-back operations.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott made no apologies about the government's secrecy, likening its border protection operations to a war.

"We are in a fierce contest with these people smugglers," he told Network Ten on Friday.

"If we were at war we would not be giving out information that is of use to the enemy just because we might have an idle curiosity about it ourselves."

AAP reports reports as many as five boats have been towed or turned back to Indonesia in recent weeks. The government refused to release details.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison again issued his weekly briefing on Operation Sovereign Borders by email.

He said it has been more than three weeks since the last boat arrivals were transferred to immigration authorities.

AAP reports the statement did not mention tow-backs.

UN view

The United Nations refugee agency says Australia may be breaking international law by turning boats carrying asylum-seekers back to Indonesia.

The agency says it's awaiting an explanation from the Australian government about reports two boats were turned back.

If the reports are true, it says Australia could potentially be in breach of its obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

The agency says its staff have been interviewing people who were aboard the two boats.