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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
UN rules on Nauru boat people
Asylum seekers in a makeshift camp, Nauru
Human rights campaigners condemn the Nauru camps
Nearly 150 boat people rejected by Australia and shipped to the Pacific island of Nauru have been granted refugee status by the United Nations' refugee body.

The 150 were among a group of 529 people who were landed on Nauru after being picked up trying to reach Australia last August.

The incident, especially Australia's refusal to allow the asylum seekers to come ashore off the Norwegian freighter Tampa which had saved them, led to international criticism.

Being found to be a refugee does not give a person a right to select their preferred country of protection

Australian immigration department
Australia has not yet said if it will give asylum to any of those granted refugee status. It has no obligation to do so under the law.

Of those given refugee status, 126 are from Iraq, seven from Afghanistan and 14 from other countries.

The vast majority of Afghan asylum seekers - 285 out of 292 - were not found to be refugees, principally because of the country's changed situation since the Taleban's ousting.

However, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said they all had the right to appeal.

Pacific 'solution'

Since the Tampa incident, Australia has either turned away all boat people illegally trying to reach its shores or has sent them to offshore camps to have their asylum claims processed.

The Australian Government has stuck deals with Nauru and Papua New Guinea, in what has become known as the Pacific Solution, exchanging asylum seekers for aid.

UNHCR ruling affects 529 people
Afghans rejected: 285
Afghans accepted: 7
Iraqis accepted: 126
Iraqis rejected: 75
Others rejected: 22
Others accepted: 14
Total accepted: 147
Under the 1951 Geneva Convention, a refugee is a person who has fled their country because they have a "well-founded fear" of being persecuted if they remain there, or if they return there having fled.

The UNCHR statement only applied to asylum seekers on Nauru.

Australia's immigration department said 101 Iraqis and three people from other countries held on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island have also been declared refugees.

The UN agency will now seek permanent re-settlement for those recognised as refugees.

Australia has acknowledged it might take some but said there were no guarantees.

"It is important to note that being found to be a refugee does not give a person a right to select their preferred country of protection and that people may not necessarily be resettled in Australia," the immigration department said in a statement.

See also:

13 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Howard defends Tampa tapping
24 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Australia lifts asylum claim freeze
23 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Australia stands by asylum policy
11 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Nauru takes 400 more migrants
15 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Nauru accepts 260 more migrants
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