14 Sep 2006

Australia pays visa fees for eight Burmese about to go Nauru

3:58 pm on 14 September 2006

An Australian immigration official says his government has paid visa fees of 1500 US dollars to the Nauru government for each of the eight Burmese asylum seekers who are to be sent to the island.

The eight men were picked up on the Ashmore reef off the western Australia coast at the beginning of August and are to be sent to Nauru to have their claims for asylum assessed.

Visas for asylum seekers on Nauru have been free of charge since Australia's so called Pacific solution began five years ago.

But last month, Nauru decided to charge Australia a visa fee in a bid to speed up the processing of asylum claims.

The Burmese are the first detainees to be issued with a visa carrying a fee.

The men are being held on Christmas Island for medical and identity checks, and the immigration official says those checks have now been completed.

The official says arrangements are currently being made for their transfer to Nauru, but no date has been set.