Australia, which sent back hundreds of ethnic Albanian refugees to an uncertain future in Kosovo less than a week ago, says that it would be receptive to offering refuge to white farmers affected by the political violence in Zimbabwe.
The Prime Minister, John Howard, said yesterday that Australia was "open to considering the position of any group of people who might fall into the category of refugees".
Speaking as he left on a two-week trip overseas that will take him to France, Turkey and Israel, Mr Howard said: "We are disturbed at the apparent breakdown in law and order, the apparent disregard for the authority of the courts, that is now occurring in Zimbabwe.
"There is, of course, a limit on how many people Australia can take, but we are always ready to give a helping hand to people who face persecution in their country."
Earlier this week, Albanian refugees who had begged to be allowed to stay in Australia were put aboard planes home.
New Zealand also offered a welcoming hand yesterday to the farmers, announcing that it had relaxed immigration controls for people fleeing violence in Zimbabwe.