Australian PM: Force may be used to ensure asylum seekers move offshore

13:05, August 01, 2011      

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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Monday indicated that federal police on Christmas Island will be authorized to use force to make sure asylum seekers will be moved offshore. Australian Navy on Sunday morning intercepted the first group of asylum seekers to be sent to Malaysia. There were 54 refugees, mainly Afghan, Iraqi and Iranian males, and two crew.

Gillard said the government would "do what was necessary" to make sure the asylum seekers obeyed orders, and get on board aircraft taking them to Malaysia.

"Obeying instructions here is not a question of volunteering," she told ABC Radio on Monday.

"People will be given an instruction to board a plane. We will be looking to people to obey that instruction. If it's not obeyed then we have security personnel, we have the Australian Federal Police, we also have counselors available to talk things through with people.

"We are determined to get this done. The Australian Federal Police can speak on operational matters, but we will do what is necessary to ensure that people who are taken to Malaysia under the agreement are taken."

Gillard declined to say whether any children, particularly unaccompanied minors, on the boat will be sent to Malaysia, but would not rule out the use of force on minors, saying there could be no "blanket exemptions" for children.

Under the deal signed last week, Malaysia will accept up to 800 asylum seekers arriving by boat in return for Australia taking 4, 000 processed refugees over four years.

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