The skipper of one of the biggest asylum seeker vessels to arrive in Australian waters in the past 10 years abandoned his boat on Tuesday and left his passengers to fend for themselves.
_The West Australian _ understands the captain of the boat jumped on to another vessel just outside Australian waters, knowing he would face prosecution if caught by Customs.
The asylum seekers then used mobile phones to call Australian Federal Police and Customs on Christmas Island, pleading to be rescued. The events of Tuesday night, in treacherous seas, underscore the sophisticated nature of people-smuggling operations and the efforts being taken to avoid facing jail in Australia.
It also shows the disregard the smuggling syndicates have for the lives of their desperate customers.
Two boatloads of asylum seekers arrived in Australian waters yesterday - the largest arrival of asylum seekers in one day since the Tampa affair in 2001.
One boat was found carrying 156 people north-west of Christmas Island and the other 99 people west of the island.
The bigger of the vessels was left adrift by the captain who got on another boat to return to Indonesia.
The arrivals sparked another round of political sparring, with Immigration Minister Chris Bowen warning that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott could not continue to block legislation aimed at deterring asylum seekers while also complaining about the high number of boat arrivals.
"I think the Australian people have had a gutful of the politics around this," Mr Bowen said.
"It is simply not in any way sustainable for Tony Abbott and (Opposition immigration spokesman) Scott Morrison to say that they support offshore processing but they're not going to vote for it while the Government is proposing it."
Legislation brought on by independent MP Rob Oakeshott to be voted on next month would restore the right of the Government to process asylum seekers offshore.
The Bill will likely pass the Lower House but fail in the Senate, with the coalition set to vote with the Greens to kill it off.
Government officials believe there are lots of asylum seekers massing in Indonesia ready to make the voyage to Australia and are bracing for a surge of boats.
It comes as Immigration officials yesterday convinced 10 Chinese asylum seekers in Darwin to claim protection in Australia, rather than attempting a risky sail boat journey to New Zealand.
The NZ Government feared it would set a terrible precedent if a group of asylum seekers was given aid by Australia to cross the Tasman to claim asylum.
The NZ Government has recently taken a hardline stand against asylum seekers, despite the comparatively small number of arrivals they receive.
President Obama's speech was a fine tribute to a great man and a challenge to all of us to be our best selves #MandelaMemorial
@Kerrscur Or "we love footballs, meat pies, kangaroos and Chery cars"...
Another asylum vessel off Christmas Island. http://t.co/vYhAFdq8xv
My story today on Indon spy scandal: English classes in Jakarta taught by Oz teachers put on hold http://t.co/Z5N4CADHAv
RT @nickbutterly: Audio now up of Def Min warning worst on leaks could be to come http://t.co/IOMRyIrEhO
RT @GrogsGamut: RT @olliemilman: Murray-Darling taken off endangered listing to cut 'green tape' http://t.co/8N9jixiK68 via @GuardianAus
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