Australia to resettle Lankan refugees

Australia will resettle another 23 Tamil refugees from the group involved in a six-month stand-off on a cargo boat diverted to Indonesia in 2009 at the request of the then prime minister Kevin Rudd.

A total of 38 refugees from the boat, which carried 254 asylum seekers on the way to Australia when it was diverted to the port of Merak, will be resettled, an Immigration Department spokesman confirmed.

The refugee advocate Ian Rintoul said there are still 100 of the original group waiting for resettlement, who had been stuck in Indonesia for two years.

Australia’s refugee intake is capped at 13,750 places a year but is split between boat arrivals and offshore refugees.

The Refugee Council of Australia yesterday welcomed a commitment by the Coalition to guarantee 1000 refugee places for women at risk who applied offshore but criticised that the policy stipulated these places would be at the expense of boat arrivals.

The council’s chief executive, Paul Power, yesterday wrote to the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, expressing concern that the policy ”suggests that people seeking asylum in other countries are genuine but those who seek asylum in Australia are not”.

Mr Power said the council was ”bitterly disappointed to see recent opposition statements inferring asylum seekers diagnosed with typhoid represented a public health threat to Australia”.

Under the government’s policy, an increase in visas allocated to boat arrivals in any given year restricts the number available to other humanitarian programs. (Sydney Morning Herald)