Operation Sovereign Borders 'blocked 33 boats in five years'

Border Force resources were boosted after an asylum-seeker boat landed in far north Queensland this year. Source: AAP

New government numbers reveal 33 boats have been stopped since the start of the Abbott government, while 78 smuggling operations were stopped before they ever boarded vessels.

A rare release of data about Australia’s maritime border enforcement program has revealed the number of boats stopped or turned around under Operation Sovereign Borders since it began under the Abbott government.

Information about boat turnbacks is subject to secrecy provisions, and detailed numbers on the program have been scarce.

But The Australian newspaper published figures on Wednesday claiming there were 33 boats stopped or turned back since the policy began in 2013, with around 800 asylum-seekers on board in total.

Co-operation between Australian agencies and those in neighbouring countries had disrupted another 78 smuggling operations with another 2,525 people that never made it on to boats, according to the data.

SBS News has contacted the Home Affairs department to verify the numbers. 

A spokesperson for the department linked to its public operational updates - but the updates do not reveal the number of boat intercepts. 

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

The release comes as Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton warned the “threat of people smuggling” was persistent, and agencies were working to disrupt current attempts.

It also comes after prime minister Scott Morrison dismissed a potential “compromise” on its so-called life-time ban legislation, which it has made a pre-condition of accepting an offer from New Zealand to accept up to 150 genuine refugees currently held on Manus Island and Nauru.

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