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Tuesday, 23 October, 2001, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Australia lands another refugee deal
Australia appeared to have closed another deal on Tuesday to ship unwanted asylum seekers to a Pacific island nation where their applications will be processed.

The President of Kiribati, Teburoro Tito, reportedly said he had agreed to take up to 500 asylum seekers.

Kiribati facts
A collection of 33 atolls
20 atolls are uninhabited
Millennium Island was first inhabited place on earth to greet year 2000
Population: 84,000
Main industries: Tourism; copra; fish; seaweed
Capital: Tarawa
He told the AFP news agency they could be held on Kanton, a remote and nearly deserted atoll between Kiribati and Hawaii.

Australia has already sent about 1,000 refugees to the island of Nauru, to New Zealand and to Papua New Guinea. Both Fiji and Palau are also considering similar requests from Australia.

PM John Howard
Howard's election prospects have been boosted by the refugee issue
Australia is in the middle of a general election campaign and the ruling Liberal Party has seen its popularity rise dramatically since Prime Minister John Howard first adopted a hardline policy towards asylum seekers in late August.

President Tito said Kanton had some facilities left from the period when it was used by British and US military personnel

"There are facilities there such as an airport and a good harbour," he said.

Transfer completed

Australia completed on Monday the transfer of more than 220 asylum seekers from its territory to the remote Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

Australia gave Nauru $10m aid t take asylum
The mainly Iraqi asylum seekers were flown from Australia's Christmas Island on three air force C-130 Hercules transport planes.

In an agreement with the PNG Government, the asylum seekers will stay in an a former World War II air and naval staging point while they have their claims processed.

Another boatload, with about 180 people who say they are fleeing Afghanistan, remains moored off Christmas Island refusing to return to international waters.

The government recently passed border control laws which it says allow asylum seekers to be turned away from certain remote islands, such as Christmas Island.

Human rights groups have criticised the changes, saying Australia's actions could place it in breach of its obligations under international human rights agreements.

See also:

20 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia intercepts asylum boat
15 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Nauru accepts 260 more migrants
18 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australian leaders go to battle
21 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Howard's refugee gamble paying off
01 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Pacific states step into the breach
03 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Nauru
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