8 Feb 2008

Australia's Pacific Solution ends as last asylum seekers leave Nauru

4:15 pm on 8 February 2008

Australia's controversial "Pacific Solution" to deal with asylum seekers has effectively ended with today's departure for Brisbane of 21 Sri Lankan refugees from Nauru.

The 21 asylum seekers, held in Nauru since March last year, were the last occupants of the detention centre built by Australia.

The controversial Howard government policy of keeping asylum seekers in foreign camps was designed to stop them from being processed in Australia, but has been scrapped by the new Labor government.

Mark Getchell from the International Organisation for Migration, which ran the Nauru facility, said there were now no asylum seekers left in Nauru.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees welcomed the end of the policy.

Its regional representative, Richard Towle, says many bona fide refugees caught by the policy spent long periods of isolation, mental hardship and uncertainty - and prolonged separation from their families.

More than two hundred million US dollars had been spent by Canberra running the camp for the past six and a half years.

The total number of people held at the Nauru facility was 1,322, of whom 543 were found to be genuine refugees.