13 Jun 2002

UNHCR announces decisions on refugee claims by Afghans detained on Nauru

10:23 am on 13 June 2002

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, says the majority of 244 Afghan asylum seekers being held on Nauru do not meet the defenition of a refugee in the 1951 Refugee Convention and will be expected to return to their country of origin.

Marissa Bandharangshi of the UNHCR's Canberra office says 25 individuals have been recognised as refugees and 25 others are still awaiting a decision on their claims.

A further seven Afghans were recognised as refugees in April and fifty-nine others who had earlier been deemed refugees have already left Nauru for permanent resettlement in New Zealand.

Ms Bandharangshi says the determination of the Afghan cases was delayed by the changing circumstances and fragile security situation in Afghanistan.

The Afghan decision follows April's determination of mainly Iraqi boatpeople, a majority of whom were deemed to be legitimate refugees.

Meanwhile, an Afghan diplomat has offered to broker a solution between Australia and asylum seekers who have had their refugee status rejected but cannot return home.

Mahmoud Saikal, Afghanistan's honorary consul to Australia, says he will travel to Nauru and Manus Island to talk to the Afghani asylum seekers.

He also says he is prepared to raise a number of options with the Australian government.

Mr Saikal says those options could include temporary visas until the situation in Afghanistan is stabilised.