Nauru arrivals the first in nine years

October 24, 2023

24 Oct 2023
Angira Bharadwaj And Jack Quail
Daily Telegraph

A boat smuggling 11 illegal asylum seekers into Australia was stopped by authorities with its passengers sent to Nauru marking the first new arrivals to the island in nine years.

Operation Sovereign Borders' Rear Admiral Justin Jones told a parliamentary hearing that the passengers were sent to Nauru for offshore processing on September 7 but was not willing to reveal the passenger's ages, gender or their country of origin because the information was "operationally sensitive".

"(We) intercepted those 11 people last month and they were transferred to Nauru for regional processing by the government in Nauru," Rear Admiral Jones said.

He said there had been a number of other interceptions this year but these had not resulted in any other arrivals to Nauru.

Australia's offshore detention system in Nauru was revealed to be costing taxpayers $400m this financial year despite there only being 13 asylum seekers on the island, including the 11 new arrivals.

At its peak, in August 2014, Nauru had more than 1200 asylum seekers, according to the Refugee Council.

The Senate Estimates hearing also heard that Border Force had been undergoing a recruitment drive after Defence was forced to plug the gaps in border patrol shortages.

There has been a 14 per cent reduction compared to the previous year in the time when planes are out patrolling the borders and a further 6 per cent reduction in the days when there are ships out patrolling.

"The primary driver for the decrease in aerial surveillance flying hours is the crew. The contractors (are having) difficulties in recruiting pilots in particular," a representative of Border Force told Coalition home affairs spokesman James Paterson in the hearing.

"We are on a campaign to continue to recruit and backflip gaps in relation to our (full time employees)." Last night, Mr Paterson said: "Labor have shown that they can't be trusted to keep our borders safe. The Coalition warned Labor that its dismantling of Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) would re-incentivise people smugglers and put lives at risk."

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