SYDNEY (AFP) - Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Friday announced that no more boat people will be resettled in Australia, with all unauthorised arrivals to be sent to poverty-stricken Papua New Guinea.
"From now on, any asylum-seeker who arrives in Australia by boat will have no chance of being settled in Australia as a refugee," Mr Rudd, flanked by his PNG counterpart Peter O'Neill, told reporters.
Asylum-seekers arriving at Australia's far-flung Christmas Island will be sent to the Manus Island processing centre on Papua New Guinea and elsewhere in the country for assessment.
"If they are found to be genuine refugees, they will be resettled in Papua New Guinea," Mr Rudd said.
The aim is to pose a strong disincentive for people considering the dangerous boat journey usually from Indonesia, particularly so-called economic migrants who make the trip not to flee persecution but for a better life in Australia.
Australia has struggled to stem an influx of asylum-seekers arriving by boat, with record numbers turning up last year and more than 13,000 so far this year.
Hundreds have drowned making the journey - as recently as Tuesday, when a boat sank killing four people - and Canberra's plans to send asylum-seekers to remote Pacific islands for processing has so far failed to stop the flood.
"Australians have had enough of seeing people drowning in the waters to our north," said Mr Rudd, who is facing national elections later this year with asylum-seekers a major policy issue. "Our country has had enough of people-smugglers exploiting asylum-seekers and seeing them drown on the high seas."