Australia flies first asylum seekers to Nauru camp

File image from 2001 of the island of Nauru The tiny territory of Nauru lies in the Pacific ocean

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Thirty asylum seekers have been flown from Christmas Island to Nauru, as Australia begins to implement its new offshore processing policy.

The Sri Lankan men arrived in the tiny Pacific nation early on Friday.

They will remain there until their claims for asylum have been processed and will be joined by more people as the camp is expanded.

Australia re-introduced offshore processing last month, after ending the practice in 2008.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said more transfers from Christmas Island - the closest part of Australian territory to Indonesia and home to a large detention centre - would follow.

He said that people-smugglers in the last few weeks had been "peddling lies", saying that "the Nauru processing centre wouldn't be established or that they could provide guarantees that people wouldn't be transferred there".

"The message is very clear: if you arrive in Australia by boat you can be taken from Australia by aeroplane and processed in another country," he said.

Strong deterrent

The Australian Human Rights Commission has raised concerns over the use of tents in Nauru and the ambiguity over asylum seekers' legal rights.

The new arrivals will be housed initially in temporary five-man tents which work is done on building more permanent structures.

Pacific Solution

  • Established in 2001 under conservative government of John Howard
  • Asylum seekers arriving by boat detained in offshore centres in PNG and Nauru
  • Rights groups criticised the conditions in which people were held, as detainees went on repeated hunger strikes
  • Labor's Kevin Rudd elected in November 2007, said Pacific Solution would end
  • Last detainees left Nauru in February 2008

In the past detainees on Nauru conducted multiple hunger strikes in protest at both the length of their detention and the conditions they lived in.

But the government says offshore processing is needed to deter people from making the dangerous journey to Australia by boat.

Many of the vessels target Christmas Island. These boats are often poorly maintained and overcrowded, and several have capsized in recent months.

Earlier this month, Australia also signed a memorandum of understanding on establishing another offshore processing centre in Papua New Guinea.

The move revives a Howard-era police known as the Pacific Solution.

Scrapped in 2008 by the Labor government, it was then reintroduced by Labor to stem an increasing flow of asylum boats from Indonesia, following the recommendations of an expert panel.

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