Canberra: A group of 157 asylum seekers who were detained on an Australian customs ship for more than a month is being transferred to the mainland, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said Friday.
The group left in a boat from India and after being intercepted by Australian authorities about a month ago has been held on board the customs ship, Xinhua reported.
The illegal migrants will be the first asylum-seekers to reach Australia in nearly seven months following the government`s tough policy against smuggling people.
Morrison said he recently held meetings with Indian officials in New Delhi about the group, and said if any of the asylum seekers are found to be Indian citizens, they would be returned to India.
"I have been pleased to consent to the passengers being returned to Australia for the purpose of allowing Indian officials to determine identities and arrange where possible for the return of any persons to India," Morrison said.
"It is our intention that those who can be returned should and must be returned."
Regarding asylum seekers who are neither Indian nationals or residents, Morrison said this was a matter to be determined but "they won`t remain in Australia."
"They will not be resettled in Australia. That is the policy of the Australian Government and there is no change to our policy on any front and more importantly there is no change to our resolve."
"We will exhaust any and every measure to prevent people coming to Australia and getting to Australia," Morrison added.