FIJI GREAT COUNCIL OF CHIEFS OPPOSED TO REFUGEE PROCESSING CENTER

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (November 1, 2001 – Radio Australia)---Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs has added its voice to those opposed to setting up a refugee processing center to accommodate asylum seekers rejected by Australia.

A Cabinet sub-committee is considering a possible arrangement with Australia.

Makongai Island, a former leper colony, has been suggested as a possible venue.

The chiefs won't release their official position on the issue until the council meets next Wednesday, but the chairman of the council, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, said most chiefs' believe Fiji must continue to give full attention to dealing with the effects of last year's coup.

"So why exacerbate the situation when we have a lot on our hands to settle and by bringing another potential problematic issue, like the refugee problem?" He said it will only compound matters.

"That is the view of most of our chiefs.

"They don't regard these (people) as refugees.

"If people can afford to pay top dollar to get out of a country, we don't class them as refugees," Ratu Epeli said.

A Fiji government spokesman said the Cabinet won't be making any quick decisions about taking Australia's unwanted asylum seekers, and has called on the media to refrain from making assumptions about what the government's final decision might be.

Fiji’s would be the third so-called "off shore" immigration center. The Australian government already has helped establish camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Also under consideration are camps in Kiribati and Palau.

 

FIJI TO TAKE ITS TIME ON ASYLUM SEEKERS DECISION

SUVA, Fiji Islands (November 1, 2001 – Radio Australia)---Fiji says it won't be making any quick decisions about taking Australia's unwanted asylum seekers.

Fiji's Information Minister, Jjosefa Vosanibola, has released a statement calling on the media to refrain from making assumptions about what the government's final decision might be.

A submission on the Australian request for Fiji to process asylum seekers has not yet reached the Cabinet paper stage.

The minister says the government taskforce set up to consider the matter still has a lot of work to do.

Australia's Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock, is refusing to comment on the outcome, saying he's leaving it to Fiji to make any announcement.

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

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