THE arrival of another boat carrying of asylum seekers has set a record for the number of arrivals in one financial year – and the Federal Opposition is demanding to know how much it’s costing taxpayers.
A boat with 49 suspected asylum seekers and two crew was intercepted north-north-west of Ashmore Islands on Sunday night, the 114th to arrive since the Rudd Government softened John Howard’s border regime. This took the number of people in 2009-10 to 4210, the highest in a financial year, with two months to go.
Opposition immigration and citizenship spokesman Scott Morrison said the number eclipsed the 4175 in 1999-2000 and the 4137 in 2000-01. “To paraphrase Kevin Rudd, he had a gold medal year on boat arrivals in 2009-10,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Howard still holds the record for the most number of boat arrivals in a calendar year – 5516 in 2001. That may be broken, with the rate of boat arrivals this year exceeding the pre-Tampa Howard era.
A spokesman for the Immigration Department yesterday said 2063 asylum seekers were housed on Christmas Island, which will rise to 2114. Christmas Island’s capacity is 2040, with 400 extra beds still weeks from being ready after bad weather stalled work.
The Federal Opposition is demanding Mr Rudd and Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Evans admit what it’s costing the Government to house the influx. “Figures obtained from Senate Estimates earlier this year revealed when the Rudd Government prepared the 2009-10 budget they believed only 200 people would arrive,” Mr Morrison said.
“In November last year Senator Evans asked for an [extra] $134 million to cover 1400 arrivals, with each arrival costing $81,900. “With this year’s arrivals now at 4210 we can expect an additional bill of more than $200 million, based on the figures previously provided by the Immigration Department.”
He said Senator Evans should release a statement of the increased costs of flights between Christmas Island and the mainland. “The Minister must also detail new costs such as reopening the Curtin detention centre and increased operational costs at the other detention centres around Australia . . . taking the spillover from Christmas Island.”
On Friday another boat en route to Australia, containing 75 Sri Lankans, was stopped by Malaysian police.