Australia claims victory on asylum boats
The Australian government says no asylum seekers arrived in Australia by boat in the past week, as it declares its tough border protection policy is working.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison on Friday said 355 asylum seekers on seven boats had been intercepted by Australian authorities since the start of December.
None arrived in the week leading up to Friday, despite unusually favourable weather during the December monsoon season.
''This represents a 70 per cent decline on last December, when there were 1149 (arrivals) on 20 boats - so far this is the lowest number of arrivals in December for five years,'' Morrison said in a statement.
''The boats have not yet stopped but they are stopping.''
Morrison said that in the 100 days since the September 18 start of Operation Sovereign Borders, there had been an average of 145 asylum seeker boat arrivals on three boats a fortnight.
That compares with about 920 people on more than a dozen boats a fortnight between the introduction of the previous government's regional resettlement arrangement with Papua New Guinea and the establishment of Operation Sovereign Borders.
Critics say the policy is inhumane, while the UN Human Rights Commission pointed to deficiencies in the running of the asylum-seeker processing camps on Nauru and in PNG - including unhygienic conditions and limited processing of asylum claims.
Last week Morrison said he had been aware since early December of a 92-page letter from 15 doctors formally employed at detention facilities that highlighted a low standard of medical care at the Australian-run detention centre on Christmas Island.
Morrison said Australia would continue to send asylum seekers to Christmas Island, while medical service provider International Health and Medical Services and his department would investigate the claims made in the letter.
On Monday Morrison said a family of asylum seekers, including an intellectually disabled woman, would be reunited in community detention so she could be properly cared for by her relatives.
''Today's decision is based on meeting the immediate health and welfare needs of the intellectually disabled woman,'' he said in a statement at the time.
On Friday he said there would be improvements to Australia's offshore processing facilities
''Particularly to ensure appropriate accommodation and health facilities for families on Nauru, where new funding has been put in place,'' he said.
Comment is being sought from Labor and the Greens.