18 Apr 2007

Australia Greens senator blasts new refugee exchange programme with US

3:59 pm on 18 April 2007

An Australian senator has expressed concern over the government's new refugee exchange programme with the United States.

The programme would see asylum seekers detained on Nauru resettled in the US - and mainly Cuban refugees held by the US at Guantanamo Bay brought to Australia.

Under the new scheme, Australia and the US will each resettle up to 200 refugees processed in the other country every year.

The first group to go could be the 83 Sri Lankans and eight Burmese currently having their protection claims processed by Australian immigration officials on Nauru.

But Greens immigration spokesperson Kerry Nettle describes the programme as bizarre, and questions whether it will be a deterrent to boat people.

"I cannot see how it can act as a detterent at all. There's a lot of people who want to live in the United States and this process is about spending six months on Nauru and then being able to live ion the US. I think it may well have the opposite effect of encouraging people to try to make their way to Australia because that's a back door way of getting into the United States."

Kerry Nettle