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Asylum seekers coming to Australia hit record high

SYDNEY -- The number of boat people coming to Australia surged past the previous annual record in the first seven months of the year despite scores of deaths at sea, the government said Wednesday.

The Department of Immigration said 92 boats carrying 6,557 asylum seekers, excluding crew, had landed in Australian waters in 2012. The previous record was 6,555 reached over the 2010 calendar year.

A rush of crowded boats have recently arrived after the government failed to pass new legislation to transfer boat people to Malaysia — a move Canberra hoped would deter refugees from making the risky voyage.

Australia is facing a steady wave of asylum seekers, many of whom use Indonesia as a transit hub, boarding leaky wooden vessels there after fleeing their home countries.

An estimated 94 people drowned en route in June after two boats sank in waters off Indonesia but the vessels have continued to come.

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