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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 December, 2004, 08:58 GMT
Asylum seekers face deportation
By Phil Mercer
BBC, Sydney

Alamdar and Muntazer Bakhtiyari at the time of their escape in 2002
The Bakhtiyari children escaped their detention centre two years ago
New Zealand has refused to take a family of high-profile asylum-seekers facing deportation from Australia.

They had fought to stay in Australia for four years and through 20 court cases.

Australian immigration officials said the family were economic migrants from Pakistan and not fleeing persecution in Afghanistan, as they claim.

The family reached international prominence when the children escaped from a detention centre in 2002.

Refugee campaigners say the way the Bakhtiyaris have been treated is an "absolute disgrace."

They have insisted there is a huge amount of evidence that supports their claim that the family are from Afghanistan and fled to Australia fearing for their lives.

But the authorities in Canberra have said the family is simply not telling the truth.

They believe the Bakhtiyaris are from Pakistan and their claims for asylum are bogus.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said the family had been treated fairly and should now accept the outcome of "the rigorous and exhaustive administrative and legal processes".

The Bakhtiyaris were living in suburban Adelaide awaiting the outcome of a final appeal.

It was rejected by Australia's High Court last week and they were taken back into detention. New Zealand has refused to offer the family of eight a home, but refugee groups are still hoping another country will.

If the Bakhtiyaris refuse to leave voluntarily they will be deported by the Australian government back to Pakistan.

It has taken four years and 20 court battles for this high-profile case to reach its final chapter.

Two years ago brothers Alamdar and Muntazer Bakhtiyari escaped from the Woomera detention centre in the South Australian desert and sought sanctuary at the British Consulate in Melbourne, 1000km away.

Australia automatically detains asylum seekers while their applications for refugee status are being investigated.

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