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Monday, 1 August 2011

Gillard's warning to Malaysia-bound asylum seekers

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has indicated that authorities on Christmas Island will be authorised to use force to make sure asylum seekers get on board aircraft taking them to Malaysia.

The first boatload of people to be processed under the asylum seeker swap deal with Malaysia arrived on Christmas Island this morning. It held 54 refugees - mainly Afghan, Iraqi and Iranian males - and two crew.

This morning, Ms Gillard said the Government would "do what was necessary" to make sure the asylum seekers obeyed orders and would not rule out using force to make children board the planes to Malaysia.

"Obeying instructions here is not a question of volunteering," she said.

"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 counsellors 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."

Ms Gillard said she was not in a position to discuss if there were any children on the recently processed boat, but would not rule out the use of force on minors, saying there could be no "blanket exemptions" for children.

She said there would be a "pre-assessment procedure" which could see some vulnerable asylum seekers not being sent to Malaysia.

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