CANBERRA, March 17 (Xinhua) -- The Australian government has achieved its election promise of "stopping the boats", Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said on Thursday.
Speaking on the success of Operation Sovereign Borders - the government-led task force in charge of stopping illegal immigration - Dutton said authorities had turned around 25 boats carrying almost 700 people since its inception.
The announcement comes as the minister revealed Border Force officers had also turned around two boats "in recent weeks".
"Since Operation Sovereign Borders began, 25 boats carrying 698 people have been turned back and safely returned to their country of departure," Dutton told the press on Thursday.
He said the flow of boats had dramatically been reduced since the government came to power in 2013, but said there were thousands of people waiting in Indonesia to illegally come to Australia. Dutton added that the last boat to successfully land in Australia was 600 days ago.
"The flow of intelligence and recent research informs us we must remain resolute because people smugglers in their operations continue and we stare that threat down on a regular basis," Dutton said.
"We do know that 14,000 people are positioned in Indonesia. They are prepared to hop on boats. That is not to speak of the threat that exists in other countries in the region."
The Immigration Minister also said he was "very proud" to announce that only 29 children remained in Australian detention centers for illegal immigrants.
"That number will continue to go down as I consider further cases and try to make arrangements for community detention," Dutton said.
Meanwhile according to the Immigration Department, 9,000 legal Syrian refugees fleeing the war in the Middle East could soon be on their way to Australia, after they reportedly passed interviews and character assessment tests. Dutton said that currently, 300 Syrian refugees had been successfully settled in Australia.