Sat, Apr 18, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Australia to return asylum seekers


Australia is returning almost 50 Vietnamese asylum seekers using a warship currently off the Asian nation’s coast after intercepting them at sea, a report said yesterday, as Canberra enforces its immigration policy.

The asylum seekers were found by Australian customs and navy vessels north of Australia earlier this month before being transferred to amphibious landing ship the HMAS Choules, the West Australian newspaper said.

The daily estimated that the cost of returning the asylum seekers could reach A$1.4 million (US$1.1 million), adding that it was not known if they had already been transferred to local authorities.

A spokeswoman for Australian Minister of Immigration Peter Dutton said she was aware of the report, but told reporters: “We don’t comment on operational matters.”

A spokesman for Australian Minister of Defense Kevin Andrews referred all questions to the immigration department.

The Australian government has refused to disclose details of its military-led operation to turn back vessels carrying asylum seekers trying to enter the country.

It said in January that “15 returns of various forms,” including boats turned back to Indonesia and Sri Lanka, instances where asylum seekers were taken back by foreign countries, and rescues at sea, had taken place since the start of the policy in September 2013.

Turn-back operations last year angered Indonesia, with tensions between the two countries growing after the Australian Navy admitted entering the nation’s territorial waters.

Since July 2013, Australia has sent asylum seekers arriving on boats to detention centers on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and Nauru.

They are denied resettlement in Australia, even if they are found to be genuine refugees.

The newspaper report came several months after the High Court ruled that Canberra’s detention of 157 Tamil asylum seekers from Sri Lanka at sea for weeks in June last year was legal.

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