New Zealand gives refuge to Sri Lankan asylum seekers

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Wellington, Jan.19 (ANI): New Zealand's Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman's office has confirmed that New Zealand has agreed to give asylum to 13 of the 78 Tamils who were taken to the Indonesian port of Tanjung Pinang.

"While New Zealand was not prepared to be part of a bilateral situation and take people directly off the Oceanic Viking, following discussions at prime ministerial level, New Zealand indicated to the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) that it would be prepared to consider refugees from the Oceanic Viking as part of its overall quota of 750," a spokeswoman for the minister said.

New Zealand takes 750 refugees a year through the UNHCR process.

The refugees had refused to get off the boat, insisting they be taken to Australia, their original destination.

The month-long standoff ended only after Australia promised to resettle the refugees within four to 12 weeks.

The Age reported that sources at the Tanjung Pinang detention centre had said 13 asylum seekers would leave for the Philippines for processing tomorrow before heading to New Zealand.

Of the remaining 65 refugees, 28 would go to the United States, 13 to Canada, three to Norway and the rest to Australia.

The minister's spokeswoman said the Government supported a multi-lateral approach to boat people smuggling. (ANI)

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