18 Dec 2003

Australian opposition says Nauru standoff is Australia's problem

5:16 pm on 18 December 2003

Australia's opposition Labor Party says the Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone must take responsibility for asylum seekers detained in Nauru as a result of her government's policies.

This comes after Senator Vanstone said the Nauru detainees were not the Australian government's problem, as the number of asylum seekers on hunger strike on the island swelled to 36.

Mark Latham of the Labor Party described her position on the issue as amazing as the policy of sending asylum seekers to Nauru was set up by the Australian government.

She ruled out immediate federal government intervention, saying while the government had put the asylum seekers in the Nauru centre, it was managed by the International Organisation for Migration.

But Senator Bob Brown of the Green Party says the government is trying to wash its hands of the matter.

"It is very much Australia's responsibility. The people were seeking to come to Australia, were on their way here, were picked up in Australian warships and transferred to Nauru. Now the responsibility there is quite clearly Australia's and were it to be dealt with in an international court I have no doubt that logic of that is compelling that Australia is responsible."

Senator Brown says the refugees should have their claims re-processed in Australia under Australian Law.

He says those who don't have legitimacy should be sent home and those with legitimacy should be integrated within the community.