SYDNEY: People-smugglers have resorted to slashing prices and offering special deals for boatpeople seeking a new life in Australia, including children travelling for free, as the country’s tough asylum-seeker policies hurt their profits, a top official said.
The number of boats arriving in Australia has dried up under the government’s policy of turning them back to Indonesia and denying would-be refugees resettlement by sending them to Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
Angus Campbell, the commander of Operation Sovereign Borders, said asylum-seekers were now much less willing to undertake the dangerous journey, with people-smugglers looking at new ways to entice them.
“Prospective clients are looking for policy or operational changes before risking their lives and money on a boat to Australia.
“At present, the great majority have decided to wait and see,” he told the Australian Strategic Policy Institute late Thursday.
In addition, many of the more affluent economic migrants who flowed into South-East Asia looking to make the illegal trip to Australia had chosen to return home.
Despite no boats making it to Australia so far this year, compared to a high of 48 in a single month last July, Campbell said it would be a mistake for the country to relax its guard.
“Should 50 boats a year arrive into Australia, we know from recent experience, that many more would follow,” he said. — AFP