Boat arrivals are down. John Menadue

You would hardly know it if you read the Murdoch papers or listened to the Canberra bureau of the ABC but boat arrivals are dramatically down in recent weeks.

How ironic it would be if even before Tony Abbott becomes Prime Minister, that asylum seekers arriving by boat have been reduced to a trickle. It is early days, but the figures point to a significant decline.

A Department of Immigration official has been reported in one newspaper that I saw yesterday as advising that ‘After 4236 asylum seekers arrived on 48 boats in July, the number for August dropped to 1585 on 25 boats. The number of arrivals in the last week of August was 71, the lowest weekly figure since February.’

The Minister for Immigration, Tony Burke, said ‘I have absolutely no doubt now that the policy is having the effect that we hoped’.

Perhaps the new figures might take some heat out of the absurd political debate, but I am not that confident. The decline in numbers should reduce significantly those asylum seekers who could be transferred to PNG or held in detention on Christmas Island and elsewhere.

If the new policy is working as the Minister suggests, could the government please consider an increase in the humanitarian intake to 27,000 as Kevin Rudd earlier suggested could occur if the policies to curb boat arrivals worked. This would reassure many people, although only in a small way, who have watched with horror the race to the bottom on asylum seekers.

Maybe there is a glimmer of hope in all this darkness!

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