Australia to restrict boat people information
SYDNEY, Australia – Australia said Monday, September 23, it will not reveal operational details about the turn around of asylum-seeker boats, saying it did not want to be a "shipping news service for people smugglers".
Scott Morrison, sworn in as immigration minister last week after conservative leader Tony Abbott swept to victory in national polls, vowed that the new military-led response to repel boat people – called Operation Sovereign Borders – would be a tougher approach to tackle the growing influx of asylum-seekers.
"Our resolve to implement what we have promised the Australian people – to stop the boats – is absolute," he told a press conference in Sydney.
Morrison said tactical or operational information about the turnback of boats -- a central plank of the government's election campaign -- would not be revealed, and details of boat arrivals would be limited to a weekly press briefing.
The previous Labor government led by Kevin Rudd issued media alerts every time a new vessel with boat people arrived.
"The previous government ran a shipping news service for people smugglers, that's not what this government is going to do," Morrison said at the press conference with Lieutenant General Angus Campbell who will head the military operation.
"Operational matters that put at risk current or prospective matters will not be the subject of public commentary."
The issue of turning boats back to Indonesia, from where many originate, has been received coolly in Jakarta but Morrison said Australia would deal directly with "our good friends in Indonesia".
The minister said that those arriving on unauthorized boats would be quickly shipped to camps in the Pacific islands of Papua New Guinea and Nauru after basic health checks were completed.
"We have also established a 48-hour target turnaround for any person arriving illegally by boat in Australia," Morrison said.
"If people are fit to get on a boat they will quickly be deemed fit to fly," he said. "And issues relating to health and other matters will be progressed increasingly at the other end."
Morrison also said Australia's spartan Pacific camps holding asylum-seekers permanently offshore -- which have condemned by human rights groups including Amnesty International -- would be expanded.
Lieutenant General Campbell said that eight boats had arrived since the September 7 election, carrying a total of more than 500 people.
He said he recognized the public's need for information, but that this needed to be balanced against sending a message to people smugglers about "how we intend to conduct our business".
"I am now turning my mind to the development of a campaign plan approach to realize the border security operation," he said. – Rappler.com