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No promises by Australian Opposition on asylum centre - Nauru

ABC RADIO AUSTRALIA - Pacific Beat Updated June 20, 2011 08:05:26

Nauru has ratified the United Nations Refugee Convention.

Signatories to the convention commit to key human rights principles, including not returning refugees to countries from which they fled.

Nauru's decision boosts the call by Australia's Opposition leader Tony Abbott for an immigration processing centre to be established on the island rather than the current plan by the Australian government to do a so called refugee swap with Malaysia.


Presenter:Claudette Werden
Speaker:David Lambourne, Nauru's Justice Secretary

LAMBOURNE: It's hard to ignore the recent visit from Tony Abbott, but this has been a matter that's been under consideration by the Nauru government for the last 12 months and it did a number of factors came together and it was something that cabinet was keen to get a decision on.

WERDEN: It does follow, you mentioned the Opposition leader, Tony Abbott's visit. It does follow on from that. Is it a consequence of that and has he promised Nauru anything?

LAMBOURNE: Well not at all, and as Opposition leader he's not really in a position to promise anything. But certainly it was a matter that was discussed during Mr. Abbott's visit.

WERDEN: Right, well under the former Howard government, to so-called Pacific Solution, there as a detention centre operating for six years, which was closed in 2008 when Labor got in. Why didn't you sign the UN Convention then.

LAMBOURNE: Well Claudette, it's important to understand that that was under a previous Nauruan government as well as the previous Australian government. So the current government has been only came into power in the last few days, or the last few months of the processing centre's operation. But really obviously this is very much a live issue both for Australia and for the region. So it's something that's been as I said has been under active consideration for the last 12 months or so.

WERDEN: OK. But is it designed, I guess, for you to then facilitate an immigration detention centre being placed on Nauru again?

LAMBOURNE: Look, there's no denying that there is an element of that in it, but Nauru has always been an active member of the Bali process, which is a regional mechanism for dealing with people smuggling and human trafficking issues within the region. And as a member of that process, we're keen to sort of advance all of the issues that are involved in this sort of matter.

WERDEN: Right, well what's the process now in terms of?

LAMBOURNE: As far as accession to the convention?

WERDEN: Yes.

LAMBOURNE: Well on Friday, President Stephen signed the two instruments of accession that are required for a state to become a party to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol. Those will be sent off to the secretary-general of the United Nations in New York and once those instruments are deposited with him, the 90 days after, Nauru becomes a state party to the Convention and its protocol.

WERDEN: OK. And, one final question. The Opposition leader of Australia, Tony Abbott says it will be a more humane option that Malaysia. But what economic benefits would setting up a processing centre bring to Nauru?

LAMBOURNE: Look, as far as economic benefits to Nauru are concerned, we're really talking about employment opportunities for people and in a community of the size of Nauru, fewer than 10,000 people. The fact that a processing centre would create several hundred jobs is no small thing.

WERDEN: So if I wanted to rate the reasons why you made this decision. Would that be number one?

LAMBOURNE: Well, I mean that's behind our decision to make ourselves available should Australia want a processing centre in Nauru. The link between the processing centre and the Refugees Convention is somewhat more tenuous though.

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