19 Jan 2010

NZ may accept Sri Lankan refugees

9:23 pm on 19 January 2010

New Zealand's Government is considering accepting some Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were picked up off the coast of Indonesia by an Australian Customs ship.

Seventy-eight Sri Lankans were rescued by the Oceanic Viking in October last October and taken to Indonesia's Bintan Island, where they refused to disembark for a month.

The Government said in November it was unlikely New Zealand would take them, as it did not want to reward queue jumpers.

However, in a statement issued on Tuesday, Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman said that subject to security checks, 13 of the group will be considered as part of New Zealand's annual refugee quota of 750. The United Nations has granted all 13 refugee status.

The ABC reports that others of the group have been resettled in Australia and 13 have been sent to Canada via a United Nations resettlement centre in Romania.

Four of the asylum seekers have been refused visas for Australia and are being held at Christmas Island.