Islamabad: Australia Thursday rejected a media report that it had offered asylum to Pakistan`s minority Shia Hazara community, which has lost hundreds of members in a string of terror attacks by the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
A statement from the Australian High Commission described a report in the Dawn newspaper about 2,500 Hazara families being offered asylum as "incorrect".
Australia is not introducing a new programme to "resettle Hazaras out of Pakistan" as its ongoing resettlement programme is "only for refugees".
"Australia is sympathetic to communities affected by sectarian violence and acts of terrorism. While Australia`s offshore Humanitarian Programme has been increased in 2012?2013, there are no new arrangements for particular ethnicities or people from a particular part of any country,? the statement said.
The Dawn had quoted Australian officials as saying that the country had offered asylum to over 2,500 Hazara families of Balochistan and urged the UN refugee agency in Pakistan to facilitate the migration of the community facing sectarian violence.
The report further said an Australian official had met UNHCR officials last week and discussed the asylum offer with them.
It quoted Maya Ameratunga, deputy representative of the UN High Commission for Refugees in Pakistan, as saying that the body was facilitating members of the Shia minority and "other people prone to sectarian violence" in seeking refuge in Australia.
A powerful bomb hidden in a water tank went off in a Shia-dominated area of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, on February 16.
A total of 91 people, a majority of them Shia Hazaras, were killed in the attack that was claimed by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
Thirty-three registered Afghan refugees also died in the bombing.
The Australian High Commission`s statement said the country`s priority is to "assist those refugees who are the most vulnerable".
Refugees, including Afghan Hazaras, wanting to be resettled in Australia "must be recognised by UNHCR as meeting the criteria for refugee status".
Australia works closely with UNHCR in many countries, including Pakistan, to identify refugees for resettlement.
All humanitarian visa applicants must satisfy the legal requirements for an Australian visa and there are no quotas for particular groups of people, the statement said.