26 May 2006

Refugee group accuses Australia of going against conventions

3:51 pm on 26 May 2006

Concern is being expressed at Australia's attempts to send Papuan and Afghan asylum seekers to a third country.

Two groups of three asylum seekers, one of Papuans and the other reportedly of Afghans, are being held by Australian Immigration officials on an island in the Torres Strait.

Little details have emerged about the Afghans.

However, with Australia so far unable to arrange their return to PNG, there's speculation the Papuans could be sent to a detention centre in Nauru.

Kate Gauthier from the refugee group, A Just Australia, says Canberra is deliberately choosing to fail in its international protection responsibilities to vulnerable people who come to Australia.

"We've never before sent them back to, say Malaysia, simply because they travelled through that country in order to reach Australia. The law is very very clear: if somebody reaches your country, and requests protection, if you're a signatory to the convention, you have to assess their claims and decide whether or not they need protection, and if they do, you have to give it to them."

Kate Gauthier