Kids \’maybe among asylum-seekers\’

Children could be among a boatload of asylum seekers intercepted off the Northern Territory coast, the federal government says.


The Navy intercepted the boat on Saturday night.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans says the 54 people on board most likely are from Afghanistan.

And, he told reporters: “There might be one or more children onboard”.

The 54 asylum-seekers, who were intercepted off the Coburg Peninsula northeast of Darwin, will be processed at Christmas Island.

It was originally reported that they were all believed to be Afghan men.

Federal Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus says they\’ll be detained while authorities establish who they are and the reason for their journey.

It\’s the second vessel of asylum seekers intercepted this year. Seven boats were intercepted last year.

Mr Debus said it was suspected the vessel had entered Australian waters illegally.

“The Australian government is committed to strong border security arrangements and is determined to deal effectively and appropriately with people smugglers,” Mr Debus said.

Australia has maintained its policy of mandatory detention of boat people, although the federal government moved to soften the stance last year.

The government says it now views detention as a last resort, tries to release people from detention as soon as possible, and won\’t detain children.

Asylum seekers have also been given greater access to permanent visas.

Authorities were alerted to the latest boat arrival by a NT park ranger.

A customs aircraft located the vessel, and the Royal Australian Navy patrol boat HMAS Bundaberg travelled to the site to intercept it.