" They will go to offshore processing and that's where their claims will be assessed, he said."
Sydney, July 31 - The Australia government failed to make India take 157 Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers while they were being held on high seas, media reported Thursday.

The asylum seekers, including at least 37 children, were transferred to the Curtin Detention Centre in a remote area in northwestern Australia several days ago, breaking a long-standing government policy, ABC News reported.

They were detained for four weeks off Australia's Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean since early July.

All the asylum seekers, originally from Sri Lanka, had fled from the island country to India during the decade-long civil war.

They had been living in refugee camps in India since then.

They set sail from the Indian state of Puducherry in mid-June in a bid to seek Australia's protection.

For weeks, Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison refused to acknowledge the asylum seekers and what was happening to them.

Morrison revealed on 7.30 news programme in ABC News that secret negotiations were held with the Indian government.

We discussed three options, he said.

One was that they could be taken to India where the process I've talked about, their identity and so on could be assessed. That was not accepted by India, he was quoted as saying.

After Australia failed to get the Indian government to take the Tamil asylum seekers, Morrison said attempts were made to get Indian consular officials into customs ship Ocean Protector.

On-board identity and nationality checks proved logistically difficult so the asylum seekers, who the immigration minister said were economic migrants, were taken to the remote centre in Western Australia, the report said.

We'll see how it goes but if the outcome of this is that no one chooses to talk to Indian consular officials, then the government's policy is very clear, Morrison said in the programme.

They will go to offshore processing and that's where their claims will be assessed, he said.

The minister, however, said there was no discussion with Sri Lankan government about taking back the people on the boat.


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