Reporters on asylum seeker boat land in Australia

AP News
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Posted: Sep 09, 2013 3:00 AM

SYDNEY (AP) — Two foreign journalists arrived on a remote Australian island in the Indian Ocean on Monday after traveling on board a boat with asylum seekers, officials said.

The American and Dutch journalists walked off the boat Monday morning after it landed on Christmas Island, where Australia operates a detention camp for asylum seekers, a spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said.

The two men, who identified themselves as journalists, had valid visas and were cleared by immigration officials on arrival, said the spokeswoman, who declined to give her name due to department policy. She had no other details.

Christmas Island, located about 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of Jakarta, Indonesia, is a popular destination for asylum seekers who crowd into rickety boats in Indonesia and pay smugglers to take them to Australia. Hundreds have died while attempting the journey in recent years.

Australia has been grappling with the best way to discourage such risky journeys, and recently announced it would no longer accept asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Verified refugees will instead be resettled in Papua New Guinea or the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru.

Border protection was a key issue throughout Australia's recent election campaign. The conservative Liberal Party-led coalition swept to power in elections on Saturday amid promises it would "stop the boats."

Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott says his government will implement a new policy under which the Australian navy would turn back boats carrying asylum seekers. The coalition also wants the Australian government to buy old fishing boats from Indonesian villagers to prevent the vessels from falling into the hands of people smugglers.

That idea was sharply criticized on Sunday by a senior Indonesian lawmaker, who dubbed it insulting and said it would threaten relations between the two countries.