14 Sep 2012

Australia sends asylum-seekers to Nauru

6:27 pm on 14 September 2012

Australian officials say they have transported 30 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers to a newly-opened detention camp on the Pacific atoll of Nauru.

It is the first group of people to be sent to the remote island on Friday under the country's new offshore processing policy.

Several thousand asylum-seekers have tried to make it to Australia by boat this year, and at least 600 have drowned, the BBC reports.

Most head to Christmas Island off Australia's west coast.

However, in an attempt to stop the boats, the Australian government is flying them from Christmas Island to the tiny island of Nauru nearly 3200km into the Pacific where they will be more isolated.

It will take months or even years to process their asylum claims.

About 30 Sri Lankan men were on the first flight to arrive and will be housed in tents.

Australia re-introduced offshore processing in August this year, after ending the practice in 2008.

Critics say the policy of sending asylum-seekers to other countries while their claims are processed violates their rights.

In the past, detainees on Nauru conducted multiple hunger strikes in protest at the length of their detention and the conditions they lived in.

But the government says offshore processing is needed to deter people from making the dangerous journey to Australia by boat.