The West

People smugglers have been assuring their customers that Nauru is "just another Christmas Island" in a sign the criminal syndicates have quickly changed their sales pitch.

_The West Australian _ has been told the people smugglers' new marketing strategy - picked up by Australian intelligence snooping on their phone calls - is aimed at countering Julia Gillard's threat of indefinite detention for boat arrivals.

Some asylum seekers waiting for a boat in Indonesia fear the Prime Minister's adoption of the Howard government's Pacific solution means getting a boat to Australia may be a waste of money.

But the people smugglers have been overheard telling clients that even if they are sent to Nauru or Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, they will eventually get to Australia if they are patient enough.

Of the 1637 people processed on Nauru and Manus Island between 2001 and 2008, 1153 (70.5 per cent) were resettled, 96 per cent in Australia or New Zealand.

The rest (483) voluntarily returned to their country of origin.

It is this equation that led Department of Immigration secretary Andrew Metcalfe to advise the Government and the Opposition last year that the Pacific solution had lost some of its deterrent effect.

Ten boats have arrived since Ms Gillard last Monday ordered the processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island be reopened. The latest boat, carrying 21 people, was intercepted on Sunday.

Unusually, the navy took the asylum seekers direct to Darwin for processing rather than Christmas Island as has been the practice.

Sri Lanka's navy stopped two Australia-bound trawlers carrying 83 would-be asylum seekers yesterday. Officials said the craft were off the north-eastern port of Trincomalee. Two women and four children were among those on board.

Thanks to the recent surge in arrivals, the Christmas Island camps are at bursting point, with almost 1700 people being held there. The absolute capacity is about 2000.

Next month, Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare will travel to Indonesia to hammer out details of improved search and rescue arrangements for asylum seekers making distress calls in waters between Java and Christmas Island.

_The West Australian _has been told the Australian delegation will not pursue a diplomatic agreement with Jakarta to allow the navy to turn back boats to Indonesia.

The Opposition says the Government must turn back boats and reintroduce temporary protection visas if the Pacific solution is to work.

The West Australian

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