12 Nov 2009

Sri Lankans offered deal to leave boat

2:59 pm on 12 November 2009

Australia has offered a new deal to Sri Lankan asylum seekers who are refusing to get off an Australian customs ship moored off an Indonesian island.

It has offered to resettle refugees aboard the Oceanic Viking within four to six weeks in a bid to persuade them to go ashore to Indonesia, the ABC reports.

Only those recognised as refugees by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have been offered this deal.

Others on board not yet deemed to be refugees by the UNHCR have been promised resettlement within 12 weeks of disembarking if their claims are proven.

Indonesia has agreed to allow the Oceanic Viking to remain anchored off Bintan Island, giving Australia more time to resolve the stand-off, now in its fourth week.

The ABC reports it has been told 30 of the 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers have already been deemed to be refugees by the United Nations.

The Sri Lankans are refusing to leave the ship, which is now moored off Indonesia's Bintan Island, because they do not want to be taken to Indonesia.

Indonesia has insisted the Sri Lankans go to an an Australian-funded centre in Tanjung Pinang. Australia's Immigration Minister Chris Evans thinks it is appropriate for some to be accommodated there.