AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT YET TO REVEAL FULL COSTS OF NEW REFUGEE CENTER IN PAPUA

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CANBERRA, Australia (October 11, 2001 – Radio Australia)---The Australian government has revealed few details of the cost of a new offshore immigration center to be set up in Papua New Guinea.

The center will process 186 asylum seekers picked up by the HMAS Adelaide when their boat began leaking off Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

The decision to establish the PNG center was taken during the current campaign for the November 10 election in Australia. However, the Prime Minister, John Howard, does not accept charges that the government has acted outside its current caretaker role.

Meantime, Opposition Leader Kim Beazley says the government's latest move on asylum seekers shows it has failed to deal with the problem of people smuggling.

Mr. Howard says the agreement with Papua New Guinea to house the 186 asylum seekers is a one-time arrangement at this stage.

But as Radio Australia correspondent Jo Prichard reports, the facility will have the capacity to accept more.

"The government of Papua New Guinea has agreed in principle to accept 186 people apprehended by the navy 150 nautical miles off Christmas Island.

"It's the second offshore immigration center to be set up by the Australian government since the MV Tampa crisis.

"The Pacific island of Nauru already is housing more than 800 asylum seekers and the government has been looking at further options abroad.

"Mr Howard says Australia has not presumed it will be a long term arrangement in PNG, but the capacity is there.

"A spokeswoman for the federal Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, says the development further confirms the government's policy is no longer working.

"The Opposition wants a permanent coast guard in place and better relationships with Indonesia to enable boats to be sent back for processing by UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

"Jo Prichard, Radio Australia."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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