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Sunday, June 6, 1999 Published at 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

'No Olympic amnesty for illegals'

The Sydney Olympics are fuelling rumours

Australia has denied rumours that illegal immigrants will be given an amnesty to coincide with next year's Sydney Olympics.

Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer said there would be no amnesty "in the Olympic year, or even beyond the Olympic year".

He was speaking after Australian officials intercepted a Taiwanese trawler carrying 108 would-be illegal immigrants from China.

The boat had been under observation for almost two weeks, after being spotted by a customs aircraft.

Those on board were well-dressed in casual clothes, despite the squalid conditions.

Military ruled out

There were calls from some politicians for Australia's defence forces to play a greater role in combating illegal immigration.

But Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock ruled that out, saying the military was meant "to protect us from people with hostile intentions".

Deputy Prime Minister Fischer said a task force had been set up and would report to Prime Minister John Howard by the end of the month.

About 640 illegal immigrants have been detained in Australia since the beginning of the year.

Olympic lure

The Olympic building boom has also led to rumours that work permits are available for labourers and other workers.

"I feel sorry for the people who try to get into Australia illegally," said Chinese Australia Union Chairman Tony Pun.

"They come mainly for economic reasons but they have been fed bad information."

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