Australia keeps second ship out

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The Independent Online

The Australian government has reinforced its hardline stance towards asylum-seekers by intercepting another boat with 200 migrants and putting them on a ship taking 433 Afghans to Papua New Guinea.

The Australian government has reinforced its hardline stance towards asylum-seekers by intercepting another boat with 200 migrants and putting them on a ship taking 433 Afghans to Papua New Guinea.

The Indonesian-registered boat was stopped in international waters near Australia's Ashmore Reef after its crew ignored warnings to turn back. Its passengers were transferred to the troop carrier HMAS Manoora, which is en route to Papua New Guinea with asylum-seekers who spent a week marooned aboard a Norwegian freighter, MS Tampa.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, refused to allow the Tampa's occupants to land on Christmas Island, despite an international uproar. They had been rescued from a sinking Indonesian ferry by the Tampa, from which, after an eight-day stand-off, they were transferred to the Manoora. They will then be flown to New Zealand and Nauru, where applications for refugee status will be processed – provided an Australian court does not rule the government's conduct was illegal.

The second boat was intercepted off Australia's north-west coast on Friday night after the Indonesian authorities refused to allow it to be boarded in its territorial waters. It did not enter Australian waters. Mr Howard said yesterday that discussions were taking place about where to process the latest group of people, and an announcement would be made in the next two days.

The latest interception comes after an Australian delegation visited Jakarta for talks aimed at finding a way to stem the flow of migrants using Indonesia as a staging post to enter Australia.

Meanwhile, the Federal Court in Melbourne is expected to rule tomorrow on whether Australia acted legally in refusing to allow the asylum-seekers aboard the Tampa to land. If the judgment goes in their favour, they will be allowed to enter Australia.

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