September 19, 2012
The Australian Army erects tents at the ‘Topside’ asylum-seeker processing centre on Nauru. Picture: Brad Hunter
NAURU’S foreign minister Kieran Keke says more work is needed on tents and buildings on the island before it accepts women and children asylum seekers.
Only men so far have been sent to the new offshore processing centre on Nauru as part of its deal with the Australian government.
The federal government is using offshore processing at Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island to stem the flow of boat arrivals of asylum seekers from Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
Dr Keke said further improvements were needed for women and children to be in separate buildings.
“There is a need to enable segregation,” Dr Keke told ABC Radio today.
He said his government would give asylum seekers access to the court and legal rights.
“There is a clear agreement for asylum seekers in terms of legal advice and other actions to assist them through the process,” Dr Keke said.
A second group of asylum seekers arrived in Nauru on Tuesday. So far, 66 Sri Lankan men have been transferred to the tiny Pacific Island.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott said claims of Sri Lankan asylum seekers wanting to return to their nation rather than be sent to Nauru showed using the Pacific Island worked in discouraging boat arrivals.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said on Tuesday there was an unconfirmed report that 14 Sri Lankans would be returning home because they did not want to go to Nauru.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen’s office declined to confirm or comment on Mr Morrison’s claim.
“It demonstrates that Nauru is a deterrent,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
Mr Abbott said the coalition’s full suite of measures were needed to deter boat arrivals, with its other policies being temporary protection visas and turning the boats around where it was safe to do so.
He said border protection was about character, which Labor lacked.
“If you want to get the right result, you’ve got to have the right resolve,” Mr Abbott said.
“The problem with this government from the beginning, in policies to stop the boats, their heart has just not been in it.”