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Tamil asylum seekers held at sea will be taken to camp on Australian mainland:- Oliver Laughland


Exclusive: Blow for Australia's hardline policy as 157 people held at sea to be taken to Curtin detention centre

Tamil asylum seekers held at sea will be taken to camp on Australian mainland:- Oliver Laughland

 Curtin detention centre in the Kimberley region of WA where the asylum seekers will be taken. Photograph: Amnesty International/AAP


The Australian border protection vessel carrying 157 Tamil asylum seekers is on its way to the Australian territory of the Cocos Islands, where the department of immigration plans to transfer the asylum seekers to immigration detention on the Australian mainland, Guardian Australia understands.

The whereabouts of the boat and the welfare of those on board have been closely guarded secrets with only senior personnel of Australia’s hardline border protection regime Operation Sovereign Borders briefed on its location.

But senior sources have told Guardian Australia of the government’s plans. It is understood that the government plans to take the asylum seekers to Curtin detention centre in Western Australia, not Christmas Island. The customs vessel carrying the asylum seekers will land on the Cocos Islands on Saturday.

The decision to move those on board to detention in Australia comes amid an ongoing high court case into the legality of their detention under the Maritime Powers Act.


Cocos Islands
Cocos Islands. Photograph: Google


It also follows a request from the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, to the Indian government that it take back the 157 people on board.

The boat left Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu around 11 June and was intercepted by Australian border patrol on 29 June, meaning the asylum seekers have spent nearly a month detained at sea.

The decision to allow the Tamils to land would mark the first asylum seeker boat arrival in Australia for over six months and be a blow to the Australian government’s hardline stance on “stopping the boats”.

The immigration department has been contacted for a response.

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