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AUSTRALIA MIGRANTS - 2001-08-30


Australia has continued to ignore international appeals to let 460 boat people ashore on an Australian island in the Indian Ocean.

The refugees, mostly from Afghanistan, have been on the deck of a Norwegian freighter, the Tampa, since it rescued them on Sunday from a sinking Indonesian ferry. The ferry was heading to Australia's Christmas Island where the refugees hoped to get asylum

Wednesday, Australian troops boarded the ship and told the captain to return to international waters, but he refused.

In Canberra, Prime Minister John Howard said his government will stick to its decision not to allow the refugees ashore. But he said he is talking to several other countries about accepting the migrants. He said he plans to discuss the crisis with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Indonesia, like Australia, says it will not permit the refugees to enter its territories.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark says her country might be willing to take some of the refugees. She also expressed hope that some other countries might be willing to do the same.

U-N High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson says Australia bears primary responsibility for the migrants. She told British radio Thursday the U-N Convention on Human Rights requires Australia to take in the refugees.

Norway has lodged formal complaints with the United Nations and the International Red Cross over Australia's refusal to accept the asylum seekers.

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