While Australia was flooded with Vietnamese "boat people" after the end of the Vietnam War, there have been few arrivals in recent years.

Last June, a handful of Vietnamese asylum seekers were found floating off the coast of Port Hedland.

At the time, the Immigration Department said 53 people from Vietnam had been granted asylum in Australia since 2003.

The arrival foreshadows a diplomatic problem for Australia, which regards Vietnam as a friendly nation and an important trading partner. Determining that Vietnamese nationals had been persecuted in their home country would open a rift with Hanoi.

A handful of Vietnamese people were among a boatload of about 35 asylum seekers intercepted off the coast of Broome last week.

The customs vessel Arnhem Bay was dispatched after the boat was spotted by a Dash-8 aircraft about 150 nautical miles north-west of Scott Reef.

They were offloaded at Christmas Island's Flying Fish Cove on Saturday along with men who appeared to be of Iranian background.

Opposition border protection spokesman Michael Keenan said the arrival was evidence that Australia was now seen as a soft touch around the world in regard to immigration.

"It is like a huge magnet," he said. "They understand that Australia is a very soft touch and that is encouraging people from all over the world specifically to Australia." Most Vietnamese asylum seekers claim they are persecuted in their home country because of their anti-communist beliefs.

By Ben Harvey - The West Australian - March 21, 2011