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Australia Court Sides with Government on Immigration

An Australian appeals court has sided with the government in a crucial immigration case. The court ruling has implications for hundreds of asylum seekers turned away by Canberra.

Australia's federal court has ruled in favor of the government's decision to turn away the 433 asylum seekers rescued by a Norwegian freighter, the Tampa, last month.

The court's decision overturns an earlier ruling last week that would have forced the government to bring the asylum seekers back to Australia to process their claims for refugee status.

In their decision the judges said the government did indeed have the executive power to turn the asylum seekers away.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the asylum seekers say they lack the funds to take further court action for now. One of the attorneys, Eric Vadarlis, says he was upset with the decision. "It's quite clear that according to Australian law at the moment it's open game on refugees," he said. "If they come near our shores they're allowed to push them out, tow them out, drag them out. I can't believe this is happening in this country."

The court ruling means that hundreds of the mostly Afghani asylum seekers, who arrived Monday in Nauru, will have their immigration claims processed on the tiny Pacific island. Nauru agreed to temporarily host the illegal migrants in exchange more than $10 million in Australian aid. New Zealand will process the claims of 150 of the group.

Since Australia refused entry to the 433 asylum seekers on August 27, hundreds of more people have attempted to enter remote parts of Australia illegally, but have been stopped or turned away.

The government is pushing for legislation to make it harder for illegal migrants to get temporary asylum in Australia while their immigration claims are processed.