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U-N Voices Doubt Over Australian Plan to Relocate Stranded Migrants - 2001-09-01


United Nations refugee officials have expressed concern about Australia's plan to relocate more than 430 mostly-Afghan asylum seekers stranded on a cargo ship in the Indian Ocean.

U-N Secretary-General Kofi Annan Saturday said the plan is not an ideal situation and that he feels for the refugees. The French News agency quotes Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorbjorn Jagland as saying Australia's plan undermines U-N conventions on the treatment of refugees.

In Geneva earlier Saturday, U-N officials said they would prefer that the asylum seekers land on Australia's Christmas Island temporarily for processing, before being moved to other countries.

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. 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 is not equipped to take the asylum seekers to New Zealand and Nauru.

Meanwhile, an Australian federal court has prohibited the cargo ship from leaving Australian waters until it rules whether the migrants should be allowed to land in Australia.

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