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Australia grants refugee status to Sri Lankans in Nauru PDF Print E-mail


© Neena Bhandari, Indo Asian News Service

Sydney, Sep 12 (IANS) As many as 72 Sri Lankans detained on the Pacific island of Nauru have been granted refugee status by Australia and efforts are underway to resettle them in other countries.


Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said in a statement: "Australia is now exploring resettlement options in other countries for the Sri Lankans that have been assessed as being refugees. They will remain in Nauru while arrangements are made to resettle them elsewhere."
The asylum seekers are part of the group of 83 intercepted in international waters by HMAS Success in the early hours of Feb 20 after setting sail from Indonesia. They were first held in Christmas Island and then sent to the A$2 million a month detention facility in Nauru under the Australian government's controversial "Pacific Solution".

Under the so-called "Pacific Solution", illegal boat arrivals who do not reach the Australian mainland are processed in offshore centres like Nauru, to be resettled in a third country, without access to the Australian legal system.

Some of the Sri Lankans had gone on a seven-day hunger strike to protest the six-month stalemate on their claims for asylum in Australia. They called off the strike last Friday after officials agreed to start issuing decisions.

One Sri Lankan asylum seeker has been refused refugee status and another is in Perth for medical treatment and his refugee status assessment is still to be determined.

Two other Sri Lankans were found to be refugees by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Indonesia before they travelled to Australia.

Assessments for seven other Sri Lankans in Nauru are still under consideration. Six Sri Lankans have been charged, one with rape and five with indecent assault, over an alleged attack on a Nauruan woman last month.

Andrews had earlier told the media: "The government is committed to a strong border protection policy and we're also committed to sending the strongest possible message of deterrence to people who would engage in the dangerous and unlawful activity of people smuggling.

"Our efforts will be aimed at settling them elsewhere. Once again, we don't want to give a green light to people indirectly getting to Australia by this method."

Refugee advocate Susan Metcalfe had told the media, "It is highly unlikely that any third country would want to be involved in taking people who are widely seen to be Australia's responsibility."

The federal government is also considering tougher professional guidelines for migration agents. A discussion paper released by Assistant Immigration Minister Teresa Gambaro looks at options for guiding the conduct of agents who provide advice to people seeking permanent residency and/or entry to Australia.

Gambaro said in a statement, "Migration agents are now used by over 70 percent of applicants in some visa classes. The government believes that consumers have a right to expect that they will be provided with advice from migration agents which is accurate, timely, and lawful, and which demonstrates high standards of professional conduct."

Indo-Asian News Service
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