PERTH (Reuters) – Australia has sent 157 migrants, thought to be Sri Lankan asylum seekers, to a detention centre on the Pacific island of Nauru after they declined an offer to speak with Indian officials about their refugee claims, the government said on Saturday.
As part of its hardline immigration policy designed to deter migrants attempting to enter Australia by boat, the government had struck a deal with India for it to take back any of its nationals among the group who set sail from the Indian state of Pondicherry in June seeking asylum.
All 157, including 50 children, had refused to meet with the Indian consular officials this week and had been transferred to the island of Nauru where they will be processed and either resettled or returned to Sri Lanka, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.
“The Australian government created a rare opportunity with the government of India for many of the 157 people who were on that voyage from India, including up to 50 children, to go back to where they had been living in safety in India, where they have family and friends, rather than go to Nauru,” Morrison said.
Returning to India was now “no longer an option” for the migrants, Morrison said.
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