Asylum seekers promised 'quick' process
March 19, 2007 – 7:19PM
The Age (Melbourne)
Australia has promised to process “as quickly as possible” the asylum claims of 82 Sri Lankan boat people being held on Nauru.
The men arrived in Nauru at the weekend, having spent four weeks detained on Christmas Island after their fishing vessel was intercepted by the Australian navy in international waters.
The federal government on Monday would not comment publicly on reports Nauru had set a 12-month deadline for Australia to process the men's claims.
Nauru's acting foreign minister Frederick Pitcher said Australia had taken too long to process the claims of Iraqi asylum seekers held previously on the island.
Some waited as long as five years to receive a final decision on their future.
“We would rather see them processed and taken off the island as soon as possible,” Mr Pitcher told ABC radio.
“Six months would be the time frame that our cabinet has agreed to (but), of course, we're willing to extend that. We would prefer to see them off the island within six to 12 months.”
A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said the government would not comment on discussions affecting bilateral relations with Nauru.
“Obviously, we'll be endeavouring to do the processing as quickly as possible,” she said.
Former immigration minister Philip Ruddock claimed that asylum seekers should not expect the automatic right to legal representation in Australia.
“I suspect that most asylum seekers around the world, when claims are made are not represented by lawyers,” Mr Ruddock told ABC Radio.
“The benchmark is to determine properly whether people have bona fide claims.
“The idea that every asylum seeker, wherever they are in the world, is entitled to Australian legal representation, as of right, I think flies in the face of what is either reasonable or possible.”