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Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 18:09 GMT
Australia 'not desperate' on asylum
Graphic BBC
Australia has denied desperation is driving it to ask tiny Pacific island nation Tuvalu to accept asylum seekers being turned away from its shores.

Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock also played down concerns that Tuvalu and other island nations are in danger of sinking below rising seas because of global warming.

If Tuvalu and Kiribati are submerged, there'll be large parts of Sydney that'll also be submerged

Philip Ruddock
His comments came after a Tuvalu government official said on Tuesday the Australian Government had asked Tuvalu to take in Middle East asylum seekers.

Last month, Australia struck a deal with Kiribati, another island nation, to house 500 asylum seekers on Kanton, a remote and nearly deserted atoll between Kiribati and Hawaii.

Mr Ruddock told Radio Australia: "They [Tuvalu and Kiribati] are both island states that are essentially island atolls and so they do have very little of their land space above sea level."

"But the fact is if Tuvalu and Kiribati are submerged, there'll be large parts of Sydney that'll also be submerged," he said.

"You'll be dealing with a very different situation."

Pacific Solution

The Australian Government, re-elected to a third term in office on Sunday after an election campaign dominated by immigration, has taken an increasingly tough line since it refused to take a boatload of asylum seekers rescued by Norwegian freighter the Tampa in August.

Tuvalu facts
Nine atolls
Land area: 26 sq km
Population: 11,000
Population density: 403 people/sq km
Australia: 2.4 people/sq km
As part of its so-called Pacific Solution, many of them have been sent to other Pacific nations, such as Nauru and Papua New Guinea, to have their claims processed.

Palau and Fiji are considering requests to temporarily house boatpeople.

With a total land area of 26 square kilometres and a population of 11,000 people, Tuvalu is one-tenth the size of Washington DC, and spread over nine atolls.

It works out at 403 people per square kilometre compared to 2.4 people to every square kilometre in Australia.

Earlier this year Tuvalu, worried about rising sea levels which it blames on climate change, appealed to New Zealand and Australia to take in some of its islanders.

New Zealand agreed to help, but in July Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock refused.

  • An asylum-seeker refused entry to Australia
    Most asylum-seekers travel via Indonesia
    A man arrested on suspicion of leading a people-smuggling ring involved in the accidental deaths of about 350 asylum seekers is Turkish not Egyptian, Indonesian police said on Wednesday.

    The man originally named as Abu Quassey was identified by survivors of the incident last month in which a packed boat sank in the Java Sea en route to Australia.

    Only 44 people survived.

    Police said the man's real name was Centin Kaya Nugun. A spokesman said he had been charged with violating immigration laws carrying a maximum six-year jail sentence and would be brought to trial "as soon as possible".

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    See also:

    13 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
    Sinking island urged to accept migrants
    09 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
    Asylum seekers 'torch ship'
    08 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
    Australia shows refugee video
    23 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
    Australia lands another refugee deal
    10 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
    Papua accepts boat people
    09 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
    Pacific islanders flee rising seas
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