Asylum seekers in limbo
Asylum seekers in limbo

India's refusal to accept the return of all 157 asylum seekers detained at sea on a customs vessel for the past month has forced the Abbott Government to bring them to the Australian mainland.

But the Government is vowing to deny the asylum seekers permanent residency, with the Prime Minister saying a "very large number" will be sent home.

The boat people, 150 of whom claim to be Sri Lankan Tamils, will be taken to Cocos Island by the Ocean Protector and then flown to the Curtin Detention Centre near Derby today.

They left the south Indian city of Pondicherry about June 12 and were intercepted on June 29 within 45km of Christmas Island.

For much of the past month, the group, which includes at least 37 children, have been in legal limbo with the High Court due on August 5 to hear a challenge to the Government's decision to hold them at sea.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison was in India this week trying to get New Delhi to accept the asylum seekers. India agreed to accept the return of its citizens and would consider taking non-Indian citizens, he said yesterday.

India's High Commissioner to Australia Biren Nanda told The Weekend West his nation had "emphasised the importance of handling such cases in a legal and humanitarian manner ensuring no harm befalls anyone, especially children".

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

Tony Abbott said the Government had remarkable success in stopping the boats, notwithstanding this arrival.

"This is the first boat which has got anywhere near as close as this in that time," he said.

The PM said Australia had a "very strong" understanding with Sri Lanka and a new understanding with India.

"I would certainly expect a very large number on that boat to go back to their countries of origin," he said.

The West Australian

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