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Last Updated: Friday, 14 October 2005, 08:40 GMT 09:40 UK
Australia winds down Nauru camp
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Asylum seekers on Nauru
Rights groups had complained about the camp's conditions
Australia is to remove almost all of the asylum seekers it is holding in its off-shore processing centre on Nauru.

The camp was established as part of Canberra's so-called Pacific Solution, where migrants trying to reach Australia were held in remote camps.

During the past four years more than 1,200 people, mostly Iraqis and

Afghans, have been held on the island. Twenty seven remain there, of which 13 will soon fly to freedom in Australia after being granted refugee status.

Another dozen will be kept in custody in camps around Australia until their cases are resolved.

That will leave just two asylum seekers on Nauru, a small speck of land near the equator. This last remaining pair is considered to be a security risk. Officials in Canberra have said they will eventually be deported.

Camp 'to continue'

The Prime Minister, John Howard, has insisted this is not the end of the road for the detention centre on Nauru.

He said it was still an important part of his government's immigration policy and would stay open.

It was established under a toughening of border security four years ago. At the time Australia was worried about the number of people heading for its shores from Indonesia.

Under the so-called Pacific Solution, Canberra built immigration centres on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, which closed down last year, and on Nauru.

The thinking was that the prospect of being shipped off to an isolated corner of the South Pacific would be a powerful deterrent to asylum seekers.

The Australian government has said the policy has been an outstanding success and that the flow of people has been reduced to barely a trickle.

The United Nations refugee agency has welcomed the decision to remove most of the remaining asylum seekers from Nauru. It has previously complained about conditions for detainees on the tropical island.




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