13 Sep 2007

UNHCR welcomes Australia's move to accept most Nauru detainees as refugees

1:58 pm on 13 September 2007

The United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees, the UNHCR, has welcomed Australia's decision to grant refugee status to 72 Sri Lankans held in its camp in Nauru.

Yesterday, Canberra granted refugee status to 72 out of 83 Sri Lankans seven months after they were intercepted at sea en route to Australia.

Australia's Immigration Minister, Kevin Andrews, says it is exploring resettlement options in other countries for the men, who will remain on Nauru for the time being.

UNHCR's regional representative, Rick Towle, says it is unusual for Australia to look for a third resettlement country and it is unlikely another country will accept the men after Australia has granted them refugee status.

Mr Towle says it is Australia's duty to find a solution.

"No doubt Australia will look at their various options. They have the fundamental responsibility to find solutions for those people. Clearly, that will not be available on Nauru. If Australia is unable to find solutions with any other third country, then the final responsibility will remain with Australia."

Rick Towle hopes they will be resettled quickly.