25 Jul 2014

Asylum-seekers to go to mainland

10:29 pm on 25 July 2014

A large group of Sri Lankan asylum-seekers who have been detained on an Australian customs ship for almost a month are to be transferred to the Australian mainland.

The ABC reports that it represents a big departure for the Australian Government which has, up until now, insisted on offshore processing for asylum-seekers who try to reach Australia by boat.

However the Government says while they are being transferred from the ship, they won't be resettled in Australia.

The 157 men, women and children left in a boat from India and have spent nearly a month in legal limbo on board the Customs ship, after being intercepted by Australian authorities.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who has just returned from India, would not confirm where they will be held onshore.

However, the ABC understands the asylum seekers are being moved to the Cocos Islands, and from there will be flown to the Curtin detention centre in remote Western Australia.

Mr Morrison, who held meetings with Indian ministers while in New Delhi, has suggested India could accept the asylum seekers.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the case reinforces the Government's message to asylum seekers.

"The fundamental point I make in total agreement with Mr Morrison is don't get on a boat to come illegally to Australia because even if you get here you won't stay here," he said.

"You will not become a permanent resident of Australia if you get on a boat and come here illegally."