Australia sends in troops to force refugees off ship

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Australia defied international opinion again yesterday, sending troops to drag struggling asylum-seekers off a navy ship anchored off Nauru.

Australia defied international opinion again yesterday, sending troops to drag struggling asylum-seekers off a navy ship anchored off Nauru.

Amnesty International condemned the use of force to resolve a stand-off with more than 200 Iraqi and Palestinian asylum-seekers who have refused to disembark from HMAS Manoora since it arrived off Nauru a fortnight ago.

The Pacific island's government, which had stated that it would not countenance the use of strong-arm tactics, was furious. When it realised what was happening, it ordered an immediate halt to the operation.

By then five men and one woman had been manhandled on to dry land. Despite Nauru's intervention, another six people were later forced off the ship. Members of the first group were taken to a detention centre, but they resisted attempts to get them to leave the bus.

The asylum-seekers, who insist they want to go to Australia, claimed the soldiers tricked them into descending into the Manoora's hold by telling them that they were to meet Australian negotiators. Once down there, they said, they were bundled on to a landing craft and taken ashore.

The Iraqis and Palestinians were intercepted in the Indian Ocean last month and put on board the Manoora, which was already transporting 433 Afghan migrants to Nauru.

Among those who witnessed yesterday's ugly scenes were officials of the International Organisation for Migration, a non-governmental group that looks after refugees. Cy Winter, an IOM representative, said: "We're not involved with this."

The Australian Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock, denied that undue force was used and said the Manoora was needed for other duties.

The Defence Minister, Peter Reith, claimed that only one member of the first group of six had put up resistance. "My advice is that the operation went quite smoothly," he said.

"Obviously these people will say that they've been heavied. Their view is that the Australian government's got no right to take them off an Australian ship and that they have rights to go to Australia. But they're not going to Australia, they're going to Nauru. We've attempted to talk with them reasonably."

The United Nations refugee agency had urged Australia not to use force against the asylum-seekers.

Comments