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Australia detains boatload of suspected refugees

Australia detains boatload of suspected refugees

Australian border agents intercepted a boat carrying 50 suspected asylum seekers on Tuesday, the latest in a wave of suspected refugee hopefuls to reach the country's waters this year.
Australia's Customs and Border Protection Service said the boat was intercepted 400 miles (640 kilometers) northwest of Broome in Western Australia state. The passengers were taken to Christmas Island, an Indian Ocean territory where the government detains and processes refugee applicants. Their nationalities were not immediately known.
It was the eleventh such boat intercepted in Australian waters this year.
Australia has long been a destination for people from poor, often war-ravaged countries hoping to start a new life. Most of the asylum seekers have come from Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka.
The recent rise in boat arrivals has stoked a political debate over immigration. Last July, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd relaxed the mandatory detention policy for asylum seekers and allowed full residency visas for those who are accepted as refugees, rather than temporary visas granted by the previous government.
The opposition says Rudd's decision has made Australia a more attractive destination for people smugglers and their clients.