Australia marks 6 months without successful people smuggling venture

Australia on Thursday marked six months since the last successful people smuggling venture into the country, with the conservative government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott saying it is delivering its commitment to stop the boats.

"The people smugglers now understand that the way to Australia is closed. We are putting the smugglers out of business," Abbott and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said in a joint statement.

"While today's milestone recognizes the progress that we have made, the government remains resolute in our determination to stop the boats," they said.

The statement said that thanks to "Operation Sovereign Borders" launched after the Liberal-National coalition was swept to power in last September's general election, there has been no successful people smuggling venture to Australia since one on Dec. 19.

By contrast, over the same six-month period in 2012-2013, at which time Australia was ruled by the Labor Party, a total of 190 boats with 12,773 people on board illegally arrived in Australia, or more than a boat a day.

During the six years of Labor rule, it said, over 800 boats arrived in Australia carrying more than 50 000 people, including more than 8,000 children.

Abbott and Morrison said stopping the boats is saving huge amount of budget money, noting that the government has announced the closure of 10 detention centers.

"This catastrophic policy failure resulted in over 1,000 lives lost at sea and A$11 billion (US$10.36 billion) in budget blowouts," they said.

The statement stressed that Australia remains "an immigrant country."

It said Operation Sovereign Borders, under which boats are being turned back from whence they came, is enabling government to provide 20,000 resettlement places over five years "for those waiting offshore in often desperate circumstances."