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Solomons offer to host Australia migrant centre: report

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SYDNEY (AFP) – South Pacific nations including the Solomon Islands have offered to host processing centres for boatpeople arriving in Australia, according to a report.

Australia wants to send all asylum seekers who arrive by boat to other nations to have their refugee claims assessed as it struggles to break people-smuggling rings which bring hundreds of people to its shores each year.

The government has said that Malaysia and Papua New Guinea are its main focus, but The Weekend Australian newspaper said that South Pacific Nations such as the politically fragile Solomons were also keen to be part of the plan.

The newspaper cited unnamed senior government sources as saying the Solomons had already made an approach to a parliamentary secretary for Pacific islands affairs to host an Australia-funded processing centre but it was declined.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard's centre-left Labor government has said it wants to process all boatpeople offshore to prevent people from making the risky sea voyage to Australia which last year claimed scores of lives.

An initial proposal for East Timor to host a regional processing centre seems unlikely to go ahead, but talks on reopening an old centre on impoverished Papua New Guinea's Manus Island are progressing.

Meanwhile, negotiations are underway finalise a deal with Malaysia under which Australia will send 800 boatpeople to the Asian nation for processing, in exchange for 4,000 of its refugees for settlement.

This proposal has met with strong criticism from rights group because Malaysia has not ratified UN conventions on refugees.

More than 100 asylum seekers have arrived in Australia since the Malaysia deal was announced earlier this month, but it is not known where they will be processed because the Kuala Lumpur deal has not yet been finalised.

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