Press Releases

    SG/SM/7940
    4 September 2001

    SECRETARY-GENERAL, REJECTING AUSTRALIAN PROPOSAL FOR EAST TIMOR PROCESSING OF AFGHAN REFUGEES,
    SAYS UNHCR PLAN "REMAINS VIABLE"

    The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

    NEW YORK, 1 September (UN Headquarters) -- The Secretary-General has discussed with his Special Representative for East Timor, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ruud Lubbers, Australia's latest proposal to process in East Timor Afghan nationals currently stranded on a Norwegian container ship.

    The Secretary-General's answer is "no." He continues to support as sound and viable the UNHCR plan.

    That plan calls for the Afghans to be brought to Christmas Island in Australia, as the ship is currently in Australian territorial waters. There, UNHCR would provide medical assistance and screen the individuals to determine if they merit refugee status. Those that do would then go directly to countries that would accept them as refugees – namely New Zealand, Nauru and Norway. A limited number with specific reasons, such as family ties, would be accepted by Australia.

    * *** *