22 Dec 2003

Australian refugee support group questions credentials of investigation team sent to Nauru

11:23 am on 22 December 2003

An Australian refugee support group has questioned the credentials of one of the men being sent to Nauru to help end a hunger strike by 35 asylum seekers who have been denied refugee status

Afghan community leader, Gholam Abbos and former immigration minister in the Fraser government, John Hodges, have been sent to Nauru on the orders of Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone

A spokesman for the group, Greg Barnes, says the appointment of Mr Abbos is inappropriate as he had been used previously to persuade Afghans in detention centres and on temporary protection visas to return to their homeland.

Mr Barnes says it appears Senator Vanstone is more interested in trying to make the Nauru problem disappear than in solving the problems on the island.

Nauru is bankrupt and dependent on the income from immigration detention facilitates set up as part of Australia's so-called Pacific Solution to deter asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat.

Last week the Australian government gave Nauru 890 thousand US dollars to cover the wages of the island's public servants up until Christmas.