24 Oct 2007

Australian minister's Burma comments criticised

1:56 pm on 24 October 2007

The Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, has suggested Australia should provide sanctuary for people fleeing violence in Burma.

The Age has reported that this has prompted calls from refugee advocates that Australia should start by helping seven Burmese who have been in an Australian-run camp in Nauru for more than a year.

Mr Downer says there are 25 million refugees around the world and they obviously can't all come to Australia.

He did say however that at the moment there should be a focus for Australia to take people from Burma because of the terrible things that had happened there.

A refugee advocate, David Mann, says if Mr Downer wanted to help Burmese who had suffered at the hands of their regime, he should look no further than Australia's detention centre on Nauru.

Mr Mann says the Burmese applied for refugee visas a year ago, but the Australian immigration department has declined to say when the applications will be processed.