Australian navy intercepts asylum seeker boat carrying 77 passengers

16:04, January 08, 2011      

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Another asylum seeker boat has been intercepted trying to reach Australia's shore, authorities confirmed on Saturday.

According to Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor, the asylum seeker boat was initially detected by a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C aircraft, and the navy patrol boat HMAS Larrakia boarded the vessel east of the Ashmore Islands on Friday night.

"Initial indications suggest there are 77 passengers and four crew on board," he said in a statement released on Saturday.

The passengers and crew will be transferred to Christmas Island for security, identity and health checks, while O'Connor said their reasons for travel will also be established.

Earlier on Friday, federal government announced it will speed up its process to determine if asylum seekers have a valid claim for refugee status.

According to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, the changes will make the initial assessment of claims faster and give asylum seekers more opportunity to respond to negative information.

Bowen also said asylum seekers in offshore detention whose claims are rejected will now be able to appeal in the full range of Australian courts.

The changes came after a High Court judgment earlier found some asylum seekers who arrived by boat were not treated with procedural fairness.

Source: Xinhua
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