21 May 2004

Australian turnaround on Nauru refugees about election votes, says senator

5:07 pm on 21 May 2004

The last of the asylum seekers rescued from the Tampa Freighter in 2001 have been recognised as refugees after a long and controversial detention on Nauru under Australia's so-called Pacific Solution.

At the time of rescue, Australian Prime Minister John Howard vowed the asylum seekers would never be allowed to reach Australia.

But this week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees announced the last dozen rescued boatpeople off the Tampa, mainly Afghans, had been declared refugees.

Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown says while the Australian government claims it made the decision after reviewing the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, he says the turnaround has more to do with the upcoming election.

"The cruel way in which the refugees were treated in the last several years has no longer got attraction because the fear that refugees might include terrorists and so on, which was put about by the government in the run to the last election in 2001, no longer works with the Australian public in the way it did a few years ago."

Bob Brown.