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SUVA, Fiji Islands (October 20, 2001 – The Sun)---The government has been warned not to assist the Australian government by agreeing to set up a processing center for Afghan asylum seekers here.

Political parties, civil organizations and church groups have expressed disappointment at the Australian government for what they see "as an attempt by them (the Australian government) to dump refugees in Fiji."

Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei Party leader Filipe Bole said his party was surprised the Australian government had made such a request.

Mr. Bole said Fiji had its own internal refugee problem that had to be sorted out before it could accommodate refugee-processing centers for other countries.

"Fiji is a compassionate country and has good relations with most countries including Australia. The Afghani refugee saga is not a credible pretext to abuse these relations or our image," Mr. Bole said.

Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy director Aisake Casimira said although ECREA agreed with Australia that the asylum seekers’ human rights should be respected, it was still, however, unfair of Australia, a country of bigger land mass, to dump them on smaller Pacific Island nations.

"We share the concern expressed by the Australian government that the practice of trafficking human lives must be stopped. But why dump the refugees here?"

For additional reports from the Fiji Sun, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Sun.

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