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Wednesday, 3 October, 2001, 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Nauru concern at refugee 'mix-up'
HMAS Manoora off Nauru
Nauru is being paid $10m by Australia to accept the boat people
Australia is continuing to land asylum seekers on the island of Nauru despite concerns that an agreement intended to prevent refugees being forced ashore has been broken.

Nauru officials said on Wednesday they had not been allowed to monitor the disembarkation of a group of asylum seekers from the navy troopship HMAS Manoora to ensure they were leaving the vessel voluntarily.

Refugees wash outside tent
Refugees are being housed in a makeshift camp in Nauru
A standoff later developed when a group of 13 men, women and children, including a baby, refused to leave a landing craft bringing them ashore where their asylum applications are to be processed.

In a multi-million dollar aid deal, Nauru has agreed to play host to boatloads of asylum seekers turned away from Australia, but the government has repeatedly said it will not accept people brought to the island against their will.

'Mix-up'

Nauru Chief Secretary Matthew Batsuia said he had expressed concern that officials had not been taken aboard the Manoora on Wednesday as agreed the previous day.

Nauru
The camp is in Nauru's barren centre
Describing the failure as a "mix-up" Mr Batsuia said the use of force was not acceptable regardless of comments from Australian politicians.

Australian Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock earlier said Nauru's stance would not compromise the outcome that the Manoora would be disembarked. He said: "We will take whatever reasonable steps needed to achieve that."

Sweltering heat

Three boatloads containing 46 mainly Iraqi and Palestinian asylum seekers were landed on Nauru on Wednesday. The first two were transferred peaceably although correspondents say some of the refugees were visibly distressed.

New Zealand refugee camp
Conditions are better for those who have been taken to New Zealand
But as the third landing craft approached, a struggle appeared to break out on board. Nauru officials suspended disembarkations for 20 minutes eventually allowing the craft to dock.

The asylum seekers refused to leave the open topped boat despite sweltering sunshine, but were eventually persuaded ashore by Nauru officials who brought letters from refugees already on the island.

Journalists were not allowed to speak to the group despite signals form the refugees that they wished to do so.

More than 160 asylum seekers remain on board the HMAS Manoora. About 500 have been brought ashore of whom 131, mainly Afghan refugees, have been flown to New Zealand for processing.

Another 262 refugees, picked up late last month from Australia's remote Ashmore Reef, are sailing towards Nauru aboard the navy vessel HMAS Tobruk.

Legal costs

The Australian Government moved on Wednesday to recover costs from the legal team which represented more than 400 mainly Afghan refugees - now in Nauru and New Zealand - in an unsuccessful challenge to the government's policy of turning away asylum seekers seeking to reach Australia by boat.

The human rights group Liberty Victoria and solicitor Eric Vadarlis worked on the case last month free of charge.

The government lost the first round but won an appeal .

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
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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