Australia denies asylum-seeker harm, confirms turn-backs
SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia on Friday denied fresh claims of asylum-seeker abuse by its navy as "completely unsubstantiated" while confirming for the first time that it was turning boats back to Indonesia.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison broke with months of secrecy over the government's military-led Operation Sovereign Borders people-smuggling crackdown to concede that boats were being turned around.
"What I have confirmed today is... that any vessel that seeks to illegally enter Australian waters will be intercepted and will be removed from our waters and our contiguous zone," he said. The minister would not confirm how many boats had been turned back but said "none shall pass is our objective".
No people-smuggling boats have arrived in Australia since December 19 - the first time in six years that January has passed without a single boat arrival.