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05 January 2014

What Are They Hiding?

Scott Morrison refuses to confirm Operation Sovereign Borders briefings

The immigration and border protection minister, Scott Morrison, is refusing to confirm when or if another weekly briefing on the military-led Operation Sovereign Borders will be held.

After assuming office in September 2013, Morrison introduced a weekly press briefing to update journalists and the public on the progress of a key election pledge to 'stop the boats'.

But last Friday, Fairfax media reported that Morrison's spokesman refused to confirm whether these weekly briefings would continue after the holiday period.

This week, despite repeated requests, Morrison's office again refused to confirm whether the briefings would resume.

In his last briefing before Christmas on 20 December, Morrison said he would issue a weekly email update.

In the weekly statement issued on Friday, Morrison said that no asylum seekers had arrived by boat in the past week, meaning that for two consecutive weeks there had been no asylum seeker boat arrivals.

Morrison said that one boat had been intercepted in the vicinity of Melville Island, off the coast of the Northern Territory on Wednesday 1 January. He said the boat was currently at sea and under the control of Border Protection Command.

Morrison said that four Sri Lankan asylum seekers had been involuntarily removed back to Sri Lanka in the past week. Guardian Australia asked if the asylum seekers were subject to the controversial enhanced screening process, which has been the subject of strong criticism by the United Nationís refugee commission, but has yet to receive a response.

Their removal from Australia is consistent with Australia's obligations, the minister's statement said.

According to Morrison's release, no asylum seekers were transferred offshore in the past week. The number of asylum seekers detained on Christmas Island was 2,193, with 1,229 detained on Manus and 838 detained on Nauru.

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