6 Jan 2011

Asylum seekers getting too many for Immigration Dept

7:09 am on 6 January 2011

The Australian government has been warned the number of asylum seeker boat arrivals is outstripping its ability to process refugee claims.

The Immigration Department says its ability to process refugee claims is not enough to match the rate of arrivals.

The ABC reports the department has also told the government that the increasing volume and complexity of claims is leading to longer times in detention.

At the time of the general election last year the department said it had begun a recruitment campaign to find an extra 400 personnel to deal with the workload.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says the government is aware of the problem.

"We have taken steps to improve the department's capacity to deal with this, including the recruitment of people from across Government and an expansion of the number of independent merits reviewers, etcetera," he said.

Meanwhile, another boat carrying 90 asylum seekers and two crew members was intercepted by the Australian Navy on Wednesday.

The ABC reports the group will be taken to the Christmas Island detention centre.

At least three other boats carrying asylum seekers have been intercepted since a shipwreck at Christmas Island that claimed up to 50 lives on 15 December. Only 30 bodies have been recovered.