Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison

Morrison outlines Coalition's plan on asylum seekers

MORE than 500 asylum seekers who arrived at Christmas Island have already been transferred to offshore detention centres - and any future arrivals will be transferred within 48 hours of arriving.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison outlined details of the Coalition's Operation Sovereign Borders in Sydney on Monday.

He said that from September 8 all new irregular maritime arrivals - those on boats without prior approval - will be transferred to offshore centres within 48 hours of arriving.

Mr Morrison said the plans would mean refugees would undergo only minimal health checks in Australia, if at all.

"If people are fit to get on a boat, any issues related to health and other matters will be increasingly completed at the other end," he said.

He said the new approach was of a "military-led border security operation" nature, in a bid to achieve the policy aim of "stopping the boats".

As the Coalition outlined before the election, the permanent protection visas offered to refugees have been cancelled, with the key Howard government measure, temporary protection visas, being returned.

Mr Morrison said the Coalition would also divert funding from a proposed onshore detention centre at Singleton to expansions at both offshore centres at Manus Island and Nauru.

The expansions would see Manus Island grow to house 1230 refugees, with Nauru to expand to hold 2000 asylum seekers.

Operation Sovereign Border Commander, Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell, said 50 staff would run the new joint taskforce, to be based in Customs House in Canberra.

In the Abbott government's first update on recent arrivals, Lt-Gen Campbell said more than 490 people arrived in seven vessels since the election, as well as a further 31 on a boat on Sunday.

Mr Morrison said the government would now only update the public on recent arrivals once a week, to stop "advertising" methods to people smugglers.

But he said the government would also not be providing information on "operational or tactical issues" as a matter of course, and would only update in special circumstances if the government saw fit to.

Interim Labor leader and former immigration minister Chris Bowen told reporters in Sydney there was no operational reason not to inform people when new arrivals were intercepted by authorities.

He said the lack of transparency was "completely unacceptable", and it was up to the government to be up front with the public.

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