A group of Labor, Liberal and Greens MPs say a processing centre for asylum seekers must be set up in the Asia-Pacific region if the flow of boat people to Australia is to be slowed in the long term.

But the group has stopped short of endorsing the Gillard Government's Malaysia Solution people swap and has been unable to come up with a clear plan on where or how a regional centre could be established.

The push for a new plan to tackle the asylum seeker crisis came as yet another asylum seeker vessel was intercepted yesterday off Christmas Island with 160 passengers.

The cross-party working group on refugees, which includes WA Liberal Judi Moylan, independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, Greens MP Adam Bandt and Labor Chief Whip Joel Fitzgibbon, heard from officials from the Immigration Department, the Australian Federal Police, the UNHCR and the navy during meetings yesterday.

It is understood the Immigration Department told the group Tony Abbott's plan to establish a detention centre on Nauru would have little impact on the number of boats arriving.

Federal police said they had "no operational" way to stop boats and navy chief Vice-Admiral Ray Griggs explained it would be difficult to turn back asylum seeker vessels, an action the Opposition Leader had been proposing.

UNHCR regional representative for Australia Richard Towle said though the organisation could not endorse the Malaysian swap publicly, it did not oppose major elements of the plan.

Many members of the group are hoping for the creation of a system similar to that set up after the Vietnam War, which established processing "hubs" in the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Thailand to distribute refugees to western countries, including Australia.

Between 1975 and 1994 Australia accepted about 100,000 Vietnamese refugees through this model.

The Greens have said they are "open to" the creation of regional processing hubs but will not accept asylum seekers being deported from Australia.

The latest vessel to arrive was about 50 nautical miles from Christmas Island when it called the Australian Maritime Safety Authority for help yesterday.

Shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison said the ballooning number of boat arrivals was putting immense strain on the Federal Budget.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Our Picks

Follow Us

More from The West