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Australia sends 157 Lankan refugees to Nauru detention centre

CHENNAI: Australian government has transferred the 157 asylum seekers, a majority of whom are Sri Lankan Tamil refugees from India, to a detention centre in Nauru, a south pacific island country, overnight for offshore processing, after the immigrants refused to meet with Indian consular officials, minister for immigration and border protection Scott Morrison said.

The asylum seekers set sail from Puducherry, 160km from Chennai in June, to reach Australian shores illegally. Taking a hardline on to prevent “people smuggling ventures” getting to Australia, all 157 were transferred to detention centre in Curtin.

Morrison expressed disappointment that after having had access to their legal representatives on July 29, all 157 IMAs coincidentally chose not to talk to Indian consular officials. “The Australian government created a rare opportunity with the government of India for many of the 157 people who were on that voyage from India, including up to 50 children, to go back to where they had been living in safety in India, where they have family and friends, rather than go to Nauru,” Morrison said in a statement.

Left with no option, the Australian government made arrangements to transfer all detainees at Curtin to Nauru at the first available opportunity for offshore processing, consistent with government policy under Operation Sovereign Borders. Morrison said these transfers were undertaken overnight on three separate flights and all 157 have now arrived in Nauru.

All detainees, previously living in India would now be unable to take advantage of the humanitarian offer being made by the Indian government. “There will also now be around 50 more children on Nauru, many of whom, if not all, could have been going back to India,” Morrison said, processing and resettlement in Australia was never an option of the government.

“The Tony Abbott government will always do all within our powers to prevent people smuggling ventures getting to Australia,” Morrison said. There has been just one such venture in more than seven months. That is in stark contrast to the more than two hundred that occurred over the same time period last year, he said.

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