The asylum seekers spent a month on the Oceanic Viking before a deal was struck with the Australian government enabling them to disembark onto an Indonesian island. Australia's opposition party argues that the deal means the asylum seekers could be fasttracked to Australia, and that it could encourage others to attempt the dangerous journey by boat.
Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Scott Morrison, Australian opposition immigration spokesman; Pamela Curr, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Australia
COCHRANE: The case of the Oceanic Viking thrust the issue of asylum seekers arriving on boats back onto Australia's political agenda. The deal to get the asylum seekers to leave the ship was a face-saver for the Australian government, but the opposition's immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, says the agreement appears to have provided a short cut to resettlement in Australia.
MORRISON: What I suspect will happen here is the special deal the Prime Minister did with the Oceanic Viking will follow through and they will have got their quick run to Australia as a result of that special deal.
COCHRANE: Australia's Minister for Immigration was unavailable for comment, but a spokeswoman from his office said it's the UN that's responsible for determining which countries refugees are re-settled to, not the Australian government. The opposition's Scott Morrison, however, says any perception that the Australian government will negotiate with asylum seekers, will attract more people to try the dangerous journey by boat.
MORRISON: What we don't want to see happen is special deals which give 'Rudd carpet' treatment to those who are seeking to come here which only encourages more boats and more people risking their lives.
COCHRANE: The UNHCR has confirmed that some of the 78 Sri Lankans on board the Oceanic Viking had already been granted refugee status, and others had lodged applications with the UN in Indonesia. But receiving refugee status is only the first step and is often followed by a long wait for resettlement, says Pamela Curr, spokeswoman for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
CURR: Last year Australia resettled 35 people from Indonesia, currently there are 640 card-carrying refugees who've been sitting in Indonesia, for some as long as eight or nine years. They they have been sitting waiting for some place to call home".
COCHRANE: Pamela Curr says the official channels take too long, forcing people to take to boats.
CURR: The only way - sure way - that people can get to a safe country now is to present on the doorstep. If they go through the formal channels and apply through a UNHCR office they will sit and wait, in Asia for up to 10 years, in Africa for up to 20 years.
COCHRANE: In the past, asylum seekers who are recognised by the UN as refugees were released to hostels, but Pamela Curr says now Indonesia is under pressure to keep them locked up, to stop them leaving by boat for Australia. But the boats keep coming. On Tuesday night, the Australian Navy intercepted a boat near Ashmore Islands carrying 51 asylum seekers, who have been transferred to Christmas Island for identity and health checks before they begin the process of being assessed for refugee status.