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A boat carrying 146 asylum seekers has been intercepted in Australian waters.

The ACV Ocean Protector intercepted the vessel north of Ashmore Islands yesterday, Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said in a statement.

An initial count suggests there were 146 passengers and three crew on board.

For "operational and safety reasons" 134 people are to be transferred to Darwin for initial security, health and identity checks.

The remaining 15 people are to be transferred to Christmas Island.

The Government says the asylum seekers are at risk of transfer to Nauru or Papua New Guinea's Manus Island under the Government's offshore processing regime.