20 Apr 2005

Lawyer says DIMIA is wrong to claim Nauru must decide whether to remove asylum seekers

3:25 pm on 20 April 2005

An Australian lawyer is challenging a claim by immigration officials that any decision to force asylum seekers on Nauru to return to their homes would be up to the Nauru Government.

About 50 asylum seekers -- the last of boatpeople Australia intercepted at sea and sent to its offshore processing centre on Nauru in 2001 -- are still there awaiting a solution to their plight.

The Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, or Dimia, has said those remaining on Nauru are failed asylum seekers who can opt to return home.

It said in March no active consideration is being given to involuntary returns of Afghans and Iraqis in the group and any decision on such action would need to be made by Nauru.

Nauru's ruled this out.

But lawyer Eric Vadarlis says Australia, not Nauru, manages the centres, with help from the International Organisation for Migration, and it is up to them to deal with the remaining asylum seekers.

"Dimia are well known for their secretiveness in the way they work and the way they apportion blame. Of course, if they said to me it's raining, I'd have to go outside and check. I don't believe a word they say."

Eric Vadarlis.