Australia to send first asylum-seekers to Malaysia

July 31, 2011 05:37


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SYDNEY - A boatload of asylum-seekers intercepted in Australian waters on Sunday will be the first sent to Malaysia under a controversial new swap deal, Australian officials said.

The boat was spotted by aircraft near Scott Reef, off Australia's northwest coast, Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said in a statement. A spokeswoman told Reuters it was the first boat intercepted since the deal with Malaysia was signed on July 25.

"The passengers will be taken to Christmas Island for pre-transfer assessments, pending removal to Malaysia," O'Connor said in the statement.

The boat is thought to be carrying 54 asylum-seekers and two crew members.

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