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Monday, 3 September, 2001, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
Australia ships out Afghan refugees
Asylum seekers were moved in rubber dinghies
Transferring the asylum seekers took three hours
More than 400 mainly Afghan asylum seekers are on their way to Papua New Guinea after the Australian Government stuck to its controversial refusal to let them into the country.

The group was transferred to the Australian troop carrier HMAS Manoora on Monday, ending an eight-day ordeal.

It was obviously planned very carefully by the Australian defence force, and it went well

Richard Danziger, International Organisation for Migration
The journey to Papua New Guinea is expected to take up to a week. From there the group will travel by air to New Zealand and Nauru, where their asylum claims will be assessed.

Australian police, meanwhile, have arrested four Indonesian crew members from the ferry the asylum seekers were travelling on before their rescue by the Norwegian freighter Tampa.

Police said the four would be charged with smuggling immigrants.

Click here for map

The three-hour transfer from the Tampa to the Manoora began after an Australian court ruled that the refugees could be moved, pending a final ruling on whether Australia had acted lawfully in refusing to accept them.

The Australian troop carrier Manoora and the Norwegian freighter Tampa
The Manoora journey could take a week
"The asylum seekers were calm," said Richard Danziger of the International Organisation for Migration, observing the transfer.

"It was obviously planned very carefully by the Australian defence force, and it went well."

A civil liberties group had lost its bid to stop the move, arguing that Australia was legally obliged to accept the refugees - something Australian Prime Minister John Howard refused to consider.

The court decided the asylum seekers would be better cared for on the Manoora, which has facilities to carry more than 400 troops, than left sitting in the sun on the decks of the freighter.

The refugee ordeal
26/08: Tampa picks up the refugees from a sinking ferry
27/08: Ship refused entry to Australian waters
28/08: Some threaten to jump if ship returns to Indonesia
29/08: Tampa sails into Australian waters, SAS storms the ship
30/08: UN urges ship be allowed to dock
1/09: Prime Minister Howard says refugees will be sent to Nauru and New Zealand
3/09: Court rules refugees can be moved

Settlement deal

Mr Howard announced on Saturday that New Zealand and Nauru had agreed to process the refugees, who were picked up by the Tampa after the boat in which they sailed from Indonesia began to sink.

Amid concerns that the Tampa could not make the long journey with hundreds of passengers on deck, Australia decided to transfer them to the Manoora, which is being escorted by a frigate.

Australia will meet the costs of the operation, and has also agreed to take some of the refugees, if their claims are judged to be genuine.

Man reading Australian newspaper
The government's decision has split Australia
Norway has criticised the plan, saying it is not acceptable under international law.

It said the best solution would have been to allow them ashore immediately, on Christmas Island, rather than make them endure more time at sea.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, had also backed such a move.

But UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has now accepted the Australian plan, despite reservations.

Return to text

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
reports from Christmas Island
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers
"We have to do more burden sharing when it comes to refugees"
Christmas Island Harbourmaster Dan O' Donnell
explains how the asylum seekers where moved from one ship to another
See also:

04 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia voters back PM over refugees
01 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Pacific states step into the breach
01 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan halts deportations
31 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia defiant in refugee standoff
30 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia seeks help over boat people
13 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia condemns vigilantes
31 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia's migrant policy under fire
12 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Boost for anti-immigrant party
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