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September 13, 2009

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Australia in asylum ship block

AUSTRALIA'S navy intercepted a ship carrying 87 people near an offshore island yesterday. Most of them were suspected asylum seekers, a government minister said.

The ship carrying 83 passengers and four crew was stopped near Ashmore Island, Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said.

People-smuggling is a hot political issue in Australia and the conservative opposition has accused Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Labor government of going soft on the subject. Critics say this has fuelled an upsurge in arrivals this year.

O'Connor said the latest arrivals would be transferred to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean where the Australian government has a processing center for asylum seekers.

Most of the often ramshackle boats arrive from neighboring Indonesia and there have been several fatal incidents. The asylum seekers are mostly from war-ravaged countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka.


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