Solomons reject Rudd refugee plan

AFP-JIJI

The Solomon Islands on Tuesday said it had rejected a request from Australia to accept asylum seekers as part of Canberra’s so-called Pacific solution to deal with refugee boat people.

Solomons Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo said Canberra had approached him about sending asylum seekers for processing but he had dismissed the idea.

“No, we will never consider that. It was informally put to us and I rejected it,” he told reporters in Fiji. “I basically said to them, (asylum seekers) have made a choice to go to Australia, they don’t make a choice to come to the Solomons.”

Under the policy pursued by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, asylum seekers arriving by ship will be processed and settled in far-flung Pacific nations, effectively closing Australia to boat people. Papua New Guinea and Nauru have both agreed to be part of the policy, which aims to defuse the politically sensitive issue of asylum seeker arrivals in Australia ahead of national elections on Sept. 7.