More illegal boats

AS THE panel charged with reviewing the nation's asylum seeker policy prepared to hand down its findings in Federal Parliament, three illegal boats carrying more than 170 people were intercepted in Australian waters on the weekend.

On Saturday, border protection boat ACV Hervey Bay stopped a vessel carrying about 31 people west of the Cocos Islands.

Later in the night a boat carrying 87 passengers was intercepted north-west of Ashmore Islands. On Sunday, 60 people were found onboard a boat travelling north-west of the Cocos Islands.

Passengers on all three boats were transported to Christmas Island for processing.

The weekend arrivals came little more than a week after a boat carrying the largest number of asylum seekers in the past decade was escorted to Christmas Island.

Speaking to the ABC on Sunday, Federal Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the time for arguing about the benefits of offshore processing at Nauru or a people swap with Malaysia had passed.

A panel led by former Australian defence chief Angus Houston was given the challenge of coming up with a policy solution which could suit all parties after politicians failed to reach an agreement before the winter break.

The final recommendations will be made to the Federal Government on Monday morning and released to the public later in the day.

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