"PACIFIC NIGHTMARE": NAURUAN STUDENT DECRIES AUSTRALIA’S POLICY

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ON ASYLUM SEEKERS

SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 25, 2002 – Daily Post)---Australia's Pacific solution to the Afghan crisis has turned into a "Pacific nightmare," Nauru’s student Prime Minister, Bernard Grundler, says.

Speaking at the opening of the Students Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders (SPICOL) last night, Mr. Grundler said the hundreds of asylum seekers housed on Nauru posed a huge problem for the tiny island country.

"Having the asylum seekers there … it will cause tension between the locals and the Afghanistan refugees," he said to assembled media following the official opening ceremony at the University of the South Pacific.

Tuvalu’s High Commissioner Taukelina Finekaso touched on the refugee problem during his opening address as chief guest to assembled delegates, diplomats and students at the USP Gymnasium.

"Australia faces this particular problem, from the so-called ‘boat people.’ The flow of people seeking asylum could have an adverse effect on the receiving country," he said. "Have we achieved Pacific solidarity? How can we strengthen it? And what is it for? What are the common goals that we are working for?

"We must look to migration as a tool, which assists the region to achieve its common goals."

Asylum seekers will be the first issue discussed under the theme ‘Migration: Pacific Pride or Problems?’ by 17 leaders who have gathered for the weeklong meeting.

Meeting discussions got under way at 6:00 pm with leaders debating on the Afghan refugee situation and trade unionism in Fiji.

SPICOL is a simulation that deals with topics of real significance to leaders of the region.

The topics covered to date include international trade, tourism, tuna fisheries, population and land.

Students from USP and other Pacific tertiary institutions become the leaders of their countries for the event and have to grapple with the real problems and concerns facing their island states.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/FijiLive.

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