A BOAT crowded with the largest number of asylum seekers to arrive in Australia in more than a decade has been picked up after putting out an emergency call near Christmas Island.
Two navy patrol vessels went to the aid of the boat, which had 211 people aboard.
HMAS Larrakia and HMAS Ararat spent yesterday ferrying passengers from the boat north-east of Christmas Island under instructions from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
The large number suggests passengers and people smugglers have not been deterred by the death of about 90 people in June, when another crowded boat capsized.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison last night accused the government of using two navy ships as a "water taxi".
More than 7300 asylum seekers have arrived this year, more than half of them in the past two months.
The Christmas Island detention centre is nearly full and authorities have to fly people to the mainland.
Detention centres on the mainland are under strain, despite more than 3200 asylum seekers having been released into the community on bridging visas.