11 Sep 2011

14 unaccompanied children aboard latest asylum seeker boat

11:36 am on 11 September 2011

Immigration officials in Australia have confirmed 14 unaccompanied children were on board the latest asylum seeker boat to arrive at Christmas Island.

The boat carrying 72 asylum seekers was intercepted on Friday. The ABC reports it was the first since the federal government's asylum swap deal with Malaysia was scuttled by the High Court on 31 August.

The Immigration Department has confirmed there are 54 single men in the group, one woman and 14 asylum seekers claiming to be unaccompanied minors.

They will have health and security checks on Christmas Island and will be processed in Australia.

Federal Cabinet and the Labor caucus will meet on Monday to settle on a new policy after the High Court rejected the Malaysia swap deal.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland told ABC News 24 on Saturday the Migration Act could be amended to allow offshore processing.

''We believe ... an amendment is desirable to put offshore processing beyond doubt, we think that should be done,'' he said.

But the Government has signalled Nauru is unlikely to be part of its new asylum seeker policy.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is still negotiating with the Opposition in the hopes of reaching a bipartisan position.

The ABC reports he has issued financial estimates that revealed it would cost just under $A1 billion to process asylum seekers on Nauru over the next four years.

"Mr Bowen stopped short of ruling out Nauru completely, but said this advice proved it was no silver bullet for people smuggling.