Asylum seekers set for mainland detention
Asylum seekers set for mainland detention

Six weeks after they set sail from an Indian port, a group of asylum seekers will be transferred to Australia - albeit in detention.

The West Australian understands the 157 boat people claiming to be Sri Lankans will be taken to Cocos Islands tomorrow by the Customs ship Ocean Protector and then flown to the Curtin detention centre near Derby, WA.

The asylum seekers have been in legal limbo since being picked up about 250km north-west of Christmas Island on June 29.

The West Australian understands the group expected to be flown out of Cocos Island for Derby about 8pm Saturday, local time.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the 157 people would be given consular access with the Indian High Commission and that until this process was finished, they would remain in Australia.

"The Government reserves its position to then apply any other measures available to it under our policy settings and relevant legislation," Mr Morrison said.

"The (Indian) Minister for Home Affairs has confirmed to the Australian Government that in addition to India's standing policy of receiving returns of any Indian citizens, he indicated to me at our meeting that they will also consider the return of non-Indian citizen residents who may be Sri Lankan nationals."

He said the Government reserved the right to send the asylum seekers not returned to India to detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.

The last time a boatload of asylum seekers was brought onshore was December 19.

India's decision pre-empts the hearing of a High Court challenge against the Government's decision to hold the asylum seekers at sea after their boat was intercepted by Australian border protection authorities in late June.

The court was due to hear the challenge the week after next.

The whereabouts of the Customs boat and the welfare of those on board have been closely guarded secrets by Government officials.

Mr Morrison ruled out any of the asylum seekers being resettled in Australia.

“They won't remain in Australia. They will not be resettled in Australia,” he said.

Mr Morrison said there was no change to the Government's policy “on any front and more importantly there is no change to our resolve”.

He denied the High Court challenge had any influence on the decision and would not go into details as to whether the asylum seekers would be flown from Cocos Islands to the Curtin detention centre in Western Australia.

The West Australian

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