SYDNEY (APP) – Australia has intercepted three asylum-seeker boats so far this year, including one carrying women and children from Sri Lanka, the country’s immigration minister revealed on Monday.

Under Canberra’s hardline measures, asylum-seekers trying to reach Australia by boat are either sent back to their home countries or remote Pacific Island camps, where the dismal living conditions of detainees have been criticized.

The government has defended the policy for stopping deaths at sea. Since the start of its “Operation Sovereign Borders” in September 2013, it has managed to halt the flood of boats and drownings, that characterized previous Labour administrations.

In March, Canberra hailed 600 days with no vessels arriving after it had tuned back 25 boats carrying 698 people who “safely returned to their country of departure”.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said three boats had been intercepted this year, including a small wooden fishing vessel from Sri Lanka last week.