Australia forced into U-turn on refugees

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The Independent Online

Australia was forced into a humiliating climbdown yesterday in the stand-off with 200 asylum-seekers refusing to disembark at Nauru when the South Pacific nation insisted it would accept only people who arrived voluntarily.

Australia was forced into a humiliating climbdown yesterday in the stand-off with 200 asylum-seekers refusing to disembark at Nauru when the South Pacific nation insisted it would accept only people who arrived voluntarily.

Australia bowed to Nauru's demand that it be allowed to send a delegation to the troop carrier HMAS Manoora to make sure that everyone taken off the ship was leaving of their own free will.

Nauru ordered the transfer of Iraqis and Palestininans to be suspended on Monday after Australian soldiers removed 12 people from the Manoora by force. The asylum-seekers have been refusing to leave the ship since it arrived off Nauru, saying they want to go to Australia.

Nauru, which is to receive £8m for taking hundreds of asylum-seekers off Australia's hands, is proving less malleable than Canberra had hoped.

Yesterday's concession was extracted after the Prime Minister, John Howard, defended the use of force, saying: "Our resolve is so strong that if that's what had to happen in order to give effect to Australia's policy, then it had to happen." But the deal will not solve the problem of those asylum-seekers who simply refuse to leave the ship.

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