More asylum seekers on way, Australian government says

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As Australia struggles to deal with nearly 900 asylum seekers, the government said on Saturday that hundreds more illegal immigrants could be preparing to make the treacherous sea journey from Indonesia.

As Australia struggles to deal with nearly 900 asylum seekers, the government said on Saturday that hundreds more illegal immigrants could be preparing to make the treacherous sea journey from Indonesia.

The alert comes as more than 600 boat people travel toward the tiny Pacific Island of Nauru aboard the Australian navy ship HMAS Manoora and another 259 await their fate on Ashmore Island, 320 kilometres (200 miles) off the northwest coast.

Ashmore Island, which consists of a small reef and an island, has no human settlement but has been a stopping–off point for boats run by people smugglers on their way to Australia.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said up to 400 more asylum seekers were expected to arrive at the reef and on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean in the next few weeks.

"We believe they've been matched up with boats and those boats were preparing to leave fairly soon," Ruddock said.

Preparations to receive the Manoora boat people at Nauru received a setback late on Friday when landowners reportedly revoked permission to use housing set aside for more than 200 people.

Australian officials and military personnel are now racing to expand a campsite which was originally intended to accommodate around 300 people, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

About 230 of the asylum seekers now aboard the Manoora came off a boat intercepted on its way to Australia last weekend.

The remainder were rescued by Norwegian cargo ship Tampa from a sinking boat off Christmas Island last month, which was then refused permission to berth in Australia.

Their fate remains unclear. The Federal Court is expected to rule on Monday on a government appeal against a decision ordering the Tampa boat people, many of whom are Afghans, to be returned to Australia.

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