25 Feb 2003

Nearly 400 asylum seekers on Nauru lose their bid for refugee status

2:45 pm on 25 February 2003

Nearly 400 asylum seekers on Nauru have been turned down by Australia in their bid for refugee status.

The processing of the 454 asylum seekers remaining on Nauru, some of whom have been in detention for 18 months, has just been completed.

Terry Walls, a spokesperson for the Immigration Department, says 55 have been confirmed as refugees while 399 people have had their applications turned down.

He says 157 out of the nearly 400 denied refugee status, have accepted voluntary repatriation.

They are all Afghans who are waiting for travel documents or for winter to end, with the next flight planned in two weeks time.

Mr Walls says a range of options are being explored for the 242 who are refusing to accept a voluntary return to their home countries, including the possibility of making a second offer of repatriation.

Australia, Canada and Norway have indicated they will accept some of the 55 refugees although it's not yet known how many.

Mr Walls says the Immigration department is currently processing visa applications from people on Nauru with family in Australia.