22 Nov 2012

Govt admits big increase in asylum boats

12:14 pm on 22 November 2012

The Australian government denies it's losing the fight against people smugglers, despite a big rise in arrivals of asylum-seeker boats.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on Wednesday declared all asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat will be denied permanent protection visas for up to five years.

AAP reports this is even if they are found to be genuine refugees and regardless of whether their claims are processed in Australia, Nauru or Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

However, AAP reports he conceded that more than 7500 people had arrived in the three months since Labor adopted its tougher policies.

"We've seen a big increase in arrivals, particularly from Sri Lanka," he told ABC Radio on Thursday.

That was why the government was implementing tough policies like offshore processing.

Despite the rising number of boat arrivals, Mr Bowen "completely rejected" suggestions the government was failing in its bid to break the people smugglers' trade.

"I do not accept your characterisation one little bit," he said.

Opposition border protection spokesman Michael Keenan said Labor had lost all credibility when it came to its policies on asylum seekers.

"About three months ago they were saying that if you came to Australia, you were going to be processed offshore (and) they've abandoned that policy yesterday," he told Sky News.