25 Sep 2003

Australia criticised over Nauru policy

4:16 pm on 25 September 2003

Nauru's outgoing solicitor-general has strongly criticised the Australian immigration minister, Philip Ruddock, accusing him of having an appalling attitude towards refugees held in Australian-run camps in Nauru.

Kerry Smith says Australia is holding a stick over Nauru to block an Australian lawyer from getting information about 21 asylum seekers facing charges over a riot at a camp last year.

She says several attempts to get copies of summons and dates for hearings have been unsuccessful.

Ms Smith says she fails to understand why the Australian government has not given the required information to the lawyer who is being prevented from going to Nauru.

Ms Smith says the Australian government has a responsibility in this matter because it sent the asylum seekers to Nauru.

The two countries have an open-ended agreement that allows Australia to keep asylum seekers in camps in Nauru.

Several hundred people are still being held there, among them refugees that Australia wants to settle in a country other than Australia.