March 12, 2013
Asylum seekers in Australia’s immigration centre on Nauru will start to have their refugee claims processed next week.
The federal government on Tuesday said it had awarded contracts to Craddock Murray Neumann Lawyers and Playfair Visa and Migration Services to assist would-be refugees with their protection claims.
The asylum seekers will have to apply to the Nauruan justice secretary to be recognised as a refugee.
Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor said Craddock Murray Neumann Lawyers will offer claim assistance to the asylum seekers in the coming weeks.
“Asylum seekers who have their claims processed in Nauru will be provided with protection and welfare arrangements consistent with Australian and Nauruan responsibilities under international law, including the refugees’ convention,” Mr O’Connor said in a statement.
But he added that Australia was determined that asylum seekers on Nauru received “no advantage” by engaging people smugglers.
The government’s no advantage policy has led to speculation that asylum seekers on Nauru may spend around five years in detention, which is similar to what other would-be refugees spend in refugee camps around the world.
The news comes as an Australian navy vessel on Tuesday intercepted a boat with 56 suspected asylum seekers on board northeast of Christmas Island.
A distressed boat carrying 103 would-be refugees and two crew was also intercepted on Sunday north of Christmas Island.
Meanwhile, 30 Afghan members of parliament have written to the Australian government urging it to abandon its plans to return asylum seekers to Afghanistan, ABC Radio reported on Tuesday.
The MPs warn Kabul is still not safe for ethnic Hazaras – the main Afghan ethnic group seeking asylum in Australia.