The immigration detention centre on Christmas Island is processing of a new group of suspected asylum seekers.

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A boat carrying more than 50 Vietnamese nationals was intercepted close to Western Australia’s north-west coast last Tuesday.

The Australian Democrats Leader, Andrew Bartlett, was on Christmas Island Island as part of the Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Migration reviewing the facilities.

He says the delegation would have stayed to observe the arrival, but left after being told the Navy frigate HMAS Canberra, transporting the asylum seekers, would not arrive today.

Mr Ruddock denies the Canberra’s arrival was arranged to avoid the politicians.

He says they would not have been allowed to engage with the asylum seekers anyway.

“There are issues that need to be dealt with including health, there are interviews that need to take place to establish where people are from, their identity, and there are questions that need to be looked at as to whether or not they engage protection.

“And it is not a question of allowing anybody, where it is members of parliament, or lawyers or human rights organisations or advocates to engage with them at this point in the process.”

Senator Bartlett says he believes Christmas Island is unsuitable for the long-term detention the asylum seekers.

There’s a lot of staff still jetting into the island themselves. So they’ll be basically setting up at the same time as people start being off loaded from the ship.

“So I think it will take a few days for the place to settle down in that regard.”

The Federal Opposition Leader, Simon Crean, says the Government has to explain why it sent the boat people to Christmas Island when they could have been processed at Port Hedland for less cost.

However, Mr Ruddock says the island can cope with the new arrivals and rejects calls for the group to be processed on the mainland.

A 46-year-old Victorian man, Van Hoa Nguyen, is facing people smuggling charges in relation to the boat arrivals, the first since 2001.

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