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Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
UK refuses asylum for Australia boys
The boys in the UK consulate in Melbourne
The boys reportedly pleaded with officials
The UK has rejected an asylum bid by two boys who broke out of an Australian detention centre for migrants.

The boys, believed to be brothers aged 12 and 13, were crying as they were taken from the British consulate general in Melbourne after eight hours of debate by senior officials.

Their lawyer, Eric Vadarlis, said: "They tried to say they didn't want to go back to jail - they considered Woomera to be a jail - that there was no future for them at Woomera, and they were very, very disturbed."

A spokeswoman for the British Home Office said there were no grounds for even considering the boys' claim.

"Australia is a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees so there are no grounds for anyone to seek asylum in Britain from Australia," she said.

The case was a matter for the Australian authorities, she added.

Australia's Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said earlier that the two were not refugees. He also cast doubt on their claim to be from Afghanistan, saying instead they were Pakistanis.


The British Government... is endorsing this government's view that children can be locked up

Lawyer Eric Vadarlis

The boys are believed to have been among a group of more than 30 who broke out from South Australia's Woomera detention centre last month.

Mr Vadarlis said he was surprised at the speed at which the boys' claim was rejected.

"The British Government... is endorsing this government's view that children can be locked up by refusing to deal with their applications," Mr Vadarlis said.

"That, in my view, is inhumane and barbaric."

The boys have been sent to the Maribyrnong Detention Center in Melbourne, but would probably end up back at Woomera, the lawyer added.

'We were misled'

Their father is understood to be living in Sydney, where he is on a temporary protection visa.

Mr Ruddock said that the visa was now in the process of being cancelled on the grounds that "we were misled".

The boys' mother and three sisters are believed to still be in the detention centre.

Mr Ruddock said his department had investigated the case four times and believed that the family was from Pakistan, not Afghanistan.

Difficult journey

The boys arrived early on Thursday at the British consulate in Melbourne, some 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) south-east of Woomera, their lawyer said.

It is not clear how they made the journey, though pro-immigration activists have said they would help any of the escapees.

Woomera
Woomera camp is in the remote outback

Australia is home to about 1,200 asylum seekers, mainly from the Middle East and Afghanistan, who are kept in remote camps while their claims are assessed.

There have been regular protests about the camps' conditions. Large groups of Afghan, Iraqi and Iranian asylum seekers staged break-outs from the Woomera camp in March and June this year.

Mr Vadarlis said the boys had been in the Woomera detention camp since January last year. The elder boy had twice attempted suicide there, he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sangita Myska reports
"During a mass break-out in June a fence was torn down and they scrambled away"
Paul Campbell, Lawyer representing the boys
"It all seems to be proof of a cruel system"

Detention camps

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