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Australia Sends Asylum-Seekers Who Arrived by Boat to Pacific Processing Center

SYDNEY — A group of asylum-seekers has been flown from Australia to Nauru, after they were discovered in a remote part of Western Australia.

Their arrival on the Australian mainland reignited the political debate about immigration policy and border protection.

The Canberra government has been criticized by the conservative opposition of losing control of Australia’s maritime borders.

About 40 men, reportedly from Pakistan and Bangladesh, were discovered near a remote Indigenous community near Beagle Bay in Western Australia.

They have been flown to an Australian-sponsored offshore migrants processing center on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru, where their refugee claims will be assessed.

For over a decade, Australia has employed tough border protection policies.

Since 2013, the Australian navy has been ordered to tow or turn away migrant boats trying to reach Australia. The policy is called Operation Sovereign Borders and has the support of both major parties in Canberra.

Conservative opposition leader Peter Dutton told reporters that the Labor government had lost control of the nation’s borders.

“I do not know whether the same level of surveillance is being undertaken as was the case when we were in government,” he said.

But Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told local media that his government remains committed to securing Australia’s maritime borders.

“Operation Sovereign Borders is in place. If you arrive here by boat, you will not be settled here,” he said.

Migrants arriving by boat seeking asylum in Australia are not committing a crime. Australia calls them “unauthorized maritime arrivals.”

The number of boat arrivals in Australia has been relatively small in recent years. Local media report that 199 migrants arrived on seven boats in 2022 and 74 people on four boats in 2023. 

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