Canberra: Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Thursday that she remains committed to her thwarted policy for deterring asylum attempts by boat after at least eight people drowned in Indonesian waters while attempting to reach Australia.
Eight asylum seekers drowned in the boat capsizing on Tuesday, and rescuers are searching for about 30 missing people. Police chief Capt Sugiarto said 48 were rescued from the boat, mostly carrying people from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
Gillard told reporters that the tragedy "tears at your heart”.
She said such asylum seekers would be deterred if the Parliament would pass legislation that would enable Australia to send 800 new boat arrivals to Malaysia in return for Australia resettling 4,000 registered refugees from Kuala Lumpur.
Gillard shelved the legislation last month when it became clear that it did not have the support of a majority of lawmakers.
"The position of the government is that we want to implement the arrangement with Malaysia," Gillard told reporters in Cannes, France, where she is attending a summit of leaders of the world`s 20 largest economies.
Home Affairs Minister Brendan O`Connor the number of boat arrivals had increased with the collapse of the Malaysia swap deal.
"There`s an absolute need now for an agreement to be reached by the Parliament to ensure we have the most effective offshore approach to deter people getting on these dangerous vessels," O`Connor told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.
A boat carrying 49 asylum seekers and two crew intercepted by an Australian patrol boat off the west coast on Wednesday became the seventh to reach Australian waters since the so-called Malaysian solution was shelved.
The opposition refuses to allow asylum seekers to be sent to Malaysia — the country where most asylum seekers begin their voyages to Australia — because of Malaysia`s poor human rights record.
The opposition maintains that future arrivals would be deterred if asylum seekers were sent to the Pacific island nation of Nauru, where Gillard`s government closed an Australian-funded immigration detention centre when it first came to power in 2007.
Gillard argues that Nauru would prove to be an expensive failure as a deterrent.
O`Connor said Australia`s embassy in Jakarta had reported all the dead were women and children.
Sugiarto said all those confirmed dead from the capsized boat were Iranian. Three were children.