24 Jul 2003

Australia processes boat people on Christmas Island

3:56 pm on 24 July 2003

Australia says the 53 boat people which were recently detained off the West Australian coast are being processed on Christmas Island.

A spokesman for the Immigration department, Alistair Wilson, says the asylum seekers, who are Vietnamese, will not be sent to Nauru or Manus island in Papua New Guinea as was the case with earlier boat people.

Mr Wilson says the processing of the asylum seekers is already well advanced.

"It has been determined by the minister that they will probably, most of them, be considered to be engaging our protection obligations for this country. So the process is well on train, most of the interviews have been completed. The answers from those interviews are currently being considered by the department as to whether they will all be taken on into this country or what will happen with them."

Mr Wilson says there's no intention by the Australian government to shut down the processing centres on Nauru or Manus at this stage.

434 people remain on Nauru with three on Manus, some having been detained for close to two years.

Mr Wilson says options are still being considered for the 259 boat people who refused to accept a resettlement package and were turned down for refugee status.

49 refugees remain on Nauru with two on Manus and the government is still looking for host countries for them.