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Australian Court Overrules Decison to Turn Away Asylum Seekers - 2001-09-11


An Australian federal court has ruled that the government acted illegally when it turned away a boatload of more than 400 mostly Afghan asylum seekers last month.

In his ruling today (Tuesday), federal court judge Tony North gave the government until Friday to comply with his order to transport the refugees back to Australia to begin processing their immigration claims.

The court case was brought by civil liberties groups. The government says it will appeal.

The migrants remained stranded for several days aboard a Norwegian freighter near Australia's Christmas Island after being rescued earlier from a sinking Indonesian ferry.

Under an international deal, the refugees were transferred last week to an Australian navy vessel for a voyage to Papua New Guinea. There, the migrants were to board planes for Nauru and New Zealand, which have agreed to process their claims for asylum.

But hours after today's (Tuesday's) court ruling, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downder said government decided to send the asylum seekers directly to Nauru.

The navy ship is also carrying a group of 237 asylum seekers seized off Australia's northwest coast late Friday.

Meanwhile, another boat carrying 130 asylum seekers ran aground off Australia's northwest coast today (Tuesday). Canberra says it is assisting the ship but will not accept the asylum seekers.

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