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Friday, 27 September, 2002, 05:26 GMT 06:26 UK
Australia convicts people smugglers
The Norwegian cargo ship, the Tampa
The "Tampa affair" caused an international outcry
A court in the western Australian city of Perth has convicted two Indonesian men of trying to smuggle a boatload of asylum-seekers into Australia in August last year.

The Australian troop carrier Manoora and the Tampa
Immigrants were stranded on the Tampa for a week
Bastian Disun, 33, and Norbames Nurdin, 32, whose fishing boat broke down while carrying more than 400 immigrants bound for Australia's Christmas Island, face up 20 years in jail.

They are due to be sentenced later on Friday. Two other crew members - Aldo Benjamin, 22, and 18-year-old Aksal Junus - were acquitted.

The incident attracted international attention after a Norwegian ship - the Tampa - rescued the passengers and crew, only to be refused permission by Australia to dock on Christmas Island.

'The Tampa affair'

The asylum seekers, mainly Afghans, remained stranded on the Tampa for a week.

Asylum seekers at a camp on Nauru
Now Australia processes refugees on Pacific islands

At one point the Australian Government even dispatched special troops to prevent the ship from going to Christmas Island.

Australia eventually sent the asylum-seekers to a detention centre on the Pacific island nation of Nauru, where most of their applications for refugee status were rejected.

About 140 of them were later accepted as refugees by New Zealand.

The incident - the so-called Tampa affair - also launched Australia's controversial "Pacific solution" policy to illegal immigrants.

Australia's tough policy

Australia imposed tough new immigration laws and began deploying navy warships off its northern coast in an attempt to deter the trade in people smuggling.

Australia does not allow asylum seekers onto its soil, instead shipping them to camps on the Pacific island of Nauru and on Papua New Guinea, where their applications are processed.

Thousands of people from Asia and Middle East use Indonesia as a springboard to the neighbouring Australia.

Many trust their lives to smugglers, often travelling on dilapidated and overcrowded boats.


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24 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
26 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
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