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Australian navy intercepts asylum seeker boat in northwest

2009-09-23 14:35 BJT

SYDNEY, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- The Australian navy on Wednesday intercepted an Australia-bound vessel carrying 98 asylum seekers northwest of Christmas Island.

"This is a successful interception by our aerial and maritime surveillance teams," Australian Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor told reporters.

Despite the interception of the boatload, the federal government said unauthorized arrivals are a "smaller issue" in Australia than elsewhere in the world.

Earlier, O'Connor had addressed the Defense Conference 2009, discussing Australia's border management issues.

"It's clear that as a result of the conflicts in Afghanistan, in Sri Lanka and in Iraq, we have people seeking haven in the developed world, but if you look at the statistics, last year 333,000 people sought refugee status in Europe, 50,000 in the United States, 35,000 in Canada and 4,750 in Australia," O'Connor said.

"At this point we cannot confirm the origin of these passengers."

More than 1,400 people have arrived on 26 unauthorized boats so far this year, with the latest boatload taking the number of boat arrivals in the past two weeks to seven.

Editor: Du Xiaodan | Source: Xinhua