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Australian navy intercepts suspected refugees

AUSTRALIA'S navy detained 54 suspected asylum seekers found on a boat off the north coast, officials said today.

The boat was intercepted last night off the Northern Territory's remote Coburg Peninsula, northeast of Darwin, Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus said. It is suspected of entering Australian waters illegally.

The group was taken to Christmas Island, a remote Australian territory in the Indian Ocean where the government runs an immigration detention camp, for security and identity checks, Debus said. The people's nationalities were not immediately known.

"The Australian government is committed to strong border security arrangements and is determined to deal effectively and appropriately with people smugglers," Debus said.

Australia has long been a destination for people from poor, often war-ravaged countries hoping to start a new life. Most of the refugees - many from Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka - travel to Australia on cramped, barely seaworthy boats from Indonesia.


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