The United Nations refugee agency says it wants to hear more about Australia's plan to move more than 430 mostly-Afghan asylum seekers stranded on a cargo ship in the Indian Ocean.
U.N. officials meeting in Geneva Saturday said they would prefer allowing the asylum seekers to land on Australia's Christmas Island temporarily for processing, before sending them to other countries that agree to accept them. The officials say Australia's plan does not explain how the migrants would be moved or how long it would take.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard says New Zealand and the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru have agreed to accept the asylum seekers while their applications for refugee status are being processed. He said 150 of the boat people, mostly women, children and family groups, will go to New Zealand with the rest heading for Nauru. Mr. Howard made his announcement Saturday after talks with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and Nauru President Rene Harris.
The Norwegian owners of the cargo ship Tampa say the vessel was designed to carry no more than 50 people and would not take the asylum seekers to New Zealand and Nauru.
Meanwhile, an Australian federal court has prohibited the cargo ship from leaving Australian waters until the court rules whether the migrants should be allowed to land in Australia. The Australian government refused to accept the migrants since they were rescued from a sinking Indonesian vessel in Australian waters last Sunday.
Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.