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Thursday, 13 June, 2002, 04:51 GMT 05:51 UK
Asylum denied to Nauru refugees
Australian navy ship transferring refugees
The refugees were taken directly to Nauru

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has confirmed that only 32 Afghan asylum seekers being held on the Pacific island of Nauru have had their claims for refugee status approved.

Afghan refugees on Nauru
Many refugees on Nauru are seeing their claims rejected
The group have been held on Nauru since September when the Australian Government refused to let them land on Australian soil.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says that claims for refugee status by 219 Afghan asylum seekers have been rejected.

The high number of rejections reflects the changed situation in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taleban.

'Pacific solution'

The group on Nauru come from the 433 people rescued at sea by the Norwegian merchant ship, the Tampa, last August.

After troops were used to ensure they did not land on Australian territory, some were taken in by New Zealand.

Asylum seekers' boat, the Tampa
The asylum seekers arrived in Australian waters by boat
But the vast majority were transferred to Nauru as part of what ministers called the Pacific solution.

Other asylum seekers followed and in total, more than 1,500 people were sent to Nauru and a similar detention centre in Papua New Guinea.

Of the Tampa refugees, more than half have now been rejected, and another 25 are still waiting for a ruling.

Those whose claims have been rejected can appeal or accept financial incentives from the Australian Government designed to encourage repatriation.

About A$2,000 ($1,000) per person and up to A$10,000 ($5,000) for a family is being offered, according to Philip Ruddock, Australia's immigration minister.

But the UNHCR is appealing for governments not to use force to make people return home.

Meanwhile, Australian ministers have been under pressure to end the Pacific solution, not least from the government in Nauru, which agreed to the deal in return for substantial aid.

Last week, President Rene Harris said the situation had become a Pacific nightmare.


Detention camps

Boat people

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