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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 01:09 GMT 02:09 UK
Boat people arrive at Nauru
refugee camp
The refugee camp has not yet been finished
More than 600 asylum seekers on board an Australian troopship have arrived off the coast of the Pacific island of Nauru, where they will be housed while their claims are processed.

However, the migrants are all expected to remain on board after a group of more than 200, mainly Iraqi asylum seekers, refused to leave the vessel, the HMAS Manoora.

Another group on board, of more than 400 mainly Afghan asylum seekers who were refused entry to Christmas island after they were rescued from a sinking ship, are staying on board waiting for the outcome of a ruling by the Australian High Court on their case.

The refugees will be housed in Nauru's barren centre
The court, which is considering a government appeal against an earlier ruling that it illegally detained the refugees while removing them from Australian waters, is expected to give its decision on Monday.

An Australian navy helicopter flew the director of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Mark Getchell, to the ship for talks with the boat people on board.

Mr Getchell returned from the Manoora saying 230 of those on board do not want to land on Nauru, but are insisting they be taken to Australia.

The Australian Government refused to allow either group of asylum seekers to land on Australian soil.

Instead, it struck a deal with Nauru to accept more than 500 refugees while their asylum claims are processed in return for millions of dollars of aid. New Zealand agreed to accept the remainder.


Nauru - the world's smallest republic - is a barren wasteland of bare limestone rock.

All vegetation is gone from the centre of the island, the result of years of over-mining of now-exhausted phosphate reserves.

Nauru will receive $10m in aid for taking the refugees

Many Nauruans do not see why their island, the world's smallest republic, should have to shoulder Australia's burden.

The original plan was to house most of the boat people in air-conditioned bungalows by Nauru's seashore, originally built for the now cancelled world weightlifting games.

But that plan has been dropped after local landowners demanded extra compensation.

Instead, the Afghans will have to live in the stifling heat of the island's interior at the Topside Sports Field, a bleak strip-mined piece of land in the centre of the island, currently lacking water, electricity or sanitation.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticus
"This is the world's smallest republic"
The President of Nauru Rene Harris
"Plans have been drawn up"
See also:

15 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
New setback for Afghan boat people
10 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Nauru accepts 200 more migrants
09 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia talks tough on migrants
04 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia voters back PM over refugees
03 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia ships out Afghan refugees
01 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Pacific states step into the breach
03 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Nauru
03 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Nauru
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