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By Tara Carr

AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (November 16 2001 – Cook Islands News)---The Cook Islands has not been asked by Australia to look after asylum seekers, said Foreign Affairs and Immigration secretary Edwin Pittman.

The country doesn’t have legislation to deal with refugees, anyway, he added.

Other Pacific Islands nations -- including Nauru and Papua New Guinea -- have taken in refugees caught attempting to enter Australia illegally.

Pittman, who chaired the recent Pacific Immigration Director’s Conference, said regional events involving Australia have highlighted the importance of his ministry providing recommendations to government on legislation to deal with a potential refugee issue.

Pittman said conference delegates discussed various immigration issues of importance to the region.

They decided to form a working group to address the development of domestic legislation to deal with refugees and people smuggling.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online.



SYDNEY, Australia (November 23, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---Asylum seekers will be brought to Pacific Islands processing centers on a passenger liner under a new Australian Government plan, The Australian newspaper reported today.

With the Australian Navy running short of ships and patience for what sailors refer to as "prison ship duty," the government plans to charter a passenger vessel.

The ship, possibly an ageing cruise liner similar to the Fairstar, will be staffed by a mixture of civilian and military personnel, The Australian said.

The open upper decks would be off limits and asylum seekers would be restricted to lower decks, it said.

Australia -- faced with thousands of Middle Eastern and Afghan asylum seekers trying to reach it by boat and claim refugee status -- has used its military to stop them from reaching Australia’s shores.

It has arranged with island countries, such as Nauru and Papua New Guinea, to temporarily host the boat people while their applications for refugee status are processed.

The cruise ship would transport the asylum speakers from Christmas Island to processing centers throughout the Pacific.

Getting a cruise liner to transport the asylum seekers should not be a problem.

The global cruise ship industry is suffering a serious downturn since the September 11 terror strikes.

According to one broker, there are five cruise ships with around 500 berths each tied up in Gibraltar awaiting work. Others are available in China and the Middle East.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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