9 May 2006

Australia eyeing sending Papuans found in Torres Strait to PNG

7:36 pm on 9 May 2006

The Australian government says it will talk with Papua New Guinea about taking Papuan asylum seekers who have been found on an island in the Torres Strait.

The minister for immigration and multicultural affairs, Amanda Vanstone, says the three men were intercepted by immigration officials on Boigu Island on Saturday.

The three are now in custody on Horn Island.

They had travelled across the Strait in a small unpowered boat.

The minister says early indications are that they arrived from PNG having previously crossed from Indonesia's Papua province.

She says that since the men arrived on an island that is designated an excised place they are classified as offshore entry people and as result any application for protection will not be processed in Australia and nor are they entitled to make any application under the Migration Act.

Senator Vanstone says as they arrived from PNG, the possibility of returning them to that country needs to explored first.

But an Australian Greens Senator, Kerry Nettle, says if the three men are claiming asylum their claims should be processed in the same way as anyone who seeks asylum in Australia.

"So we believe that they should be processed in Australia under Australian law, and we are very concerned that what the government proposes to do is not in adherence with our international obligations under the Refugee Convention."

Senator Nettle says people from Papua will seek asylum as long as human rights

abuses and economic and environmental injustices are allowed to continue

in the province.