Australia investigates Gammy’s father

Gammy is a twin – his healthy sister was taken back to Australia by their biological parents

Child protection services in Australia are investigating a man accused of abandoning a baby with Down’s syndrome to a surrogate mother in Thailand over allegations of child sex offences.

It comes after local media reported he had served time for molesting two girls under 10 in the late 1990s.

The man and his wife took home only one baby from Thailand after the surrogate had twins, leaving behind son Gammy.

The case has made international headlines, causing uproar in Australia.

State authorities told the BBC they were now conducting a “full investigation” to assess the father’s “suitability” to have a young child in his custody.

A spokesman for Western Australia’s department for child protection and family support told the BBC: “Last night we were made aware of certain information by the police regarding allegations of the father’s criminal background.”

Asked if convicted sex offenders have been allowed to keep their children, the spokesman said they assess cases based on “individual circumstances”.

Besides Down’s syndrome, the six-month-old baby has a congenital heart condition and a lung infection.

Ms Chanbua was paid by the Australian couple to have their child

Besides Down’s syndrome, Gammy has a congenital heart condition and a lung infection

Surrogate mother Pattharamon Chanbua has been looking after Gammy as well as two children of her own.

She claims his parents abandoned Gammy and had asked her to have an abortion when she was told of the child’s condition four months after becoming pregnant.

Ms Chanbua, 21, has said the father met the twins, but only took care of the girl and refused to carry or look at Gammy even though the babies were side by side.

The parents have told local media in Australia that they did not know of his existence, and claimed that the allegations made by Ms Chanbua are lies.

But one local newspaper quoted a family friend saying the parents did know about the boy being born, apparently contradicting their version of events.

“Gammy was very sick when he was born and the biological parents were told he would not survive and he had a day, at best, to live and to say goodbye,” the friend said.

She suggested Ms Chanbua, 21, had broken the surrogacy agreement by giving birth in a smaller hospital instead of an international one, which meant that the biological parents had no legal rights to the babies.

The couple had been locked in a legal battle with Ms Chanbua to take home their daughter and she had insisted on keeping Gammy to give him a Thai funeral, the friend alleged.

Both the Australian government and Thai health authorities are now looking into the case and the larger issue of commercial surrogacy in Thailand, which is mostly unregulated.

An online fundraising campaign so far has raised tens of thousands of pounds to help Ms Chanbua with Gammy’s medical expenses.

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Silicon dairy farming in rural Ireland

Causeway in remote north County Kerry is a tiny village, really just a crossroads with a few shops and pubs in a scene little changed from 19th Century photos.

The strains of accordion music and quiet singing drifting onto the streets are the only sounds one afternoon, as a group of older folk meet at their regular sing-along organised by the community.

But just up the road is a very different world, a huge modern factory complex appearing almost out of nowhere in the rolling green countryside.

It is home to Dairymaster, one of Ireland’s most remarkable and successful stories of entrepreneurial innovation.

Why one of the world’s leaders in dairy farming technology is to be found in such a quiet part of Ireland is, a bit like the seniors’ singing session, a lot to do with tradition, kinship and community.

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How Dairymaster has kept its farm and engineering real and rural in Ireland

Early innovation

“My father Ned started the company back in 1968 as a one-man operation, installing and supplying equipment locally,” says today’s chief executive, Edmond Harty.

“At that time he saw there was a need to improve what was available in the marketplace and to do it much quicker, and that’s really how the company was born,” he says.

The factory is on land Mr Harty’s grandfather once farmed.

That generation could scarcely have imagined today’s technology which helps the company plough a business furrow in over 40 countries worldwide, with everything sold created and made in Causeway, and Japanese and Russian marketing staff among the crew in Kerry.

“We’re based in a part of Ireland that’s synonymous with dairy farming,” says Mr Harty, who seems just as much at home in the field as in the company headquarters, as he weaves his way through a herd of giant inquisitive cattle near the factory.

Tradition and tech

Skilled tech workers at Dairymaster are often local and understand farming traditions

Kerry is famed for music and poetry and a trademark swashbuckling style in Gaelic football, so the genes of flair and imagination are never far away in a county with its own distinctive character.

Farming roots are key to the firm’s creations and innovations to make farming easier for both farmer and cow.

Many of the 300-strong workforce with engineering skills and degrees are also steeped in the local agricultural tradition and instinctively understand the needs and language of those who farm the land.

“The staff by and large are local and they very much understand the processes that happen here on farms, what needs to be done, what opportunities there are to improve those processes. We build and we develop the knowledge, the capability within the company ourselves really,” says Mr Harty.

Edmond Harty grew up loving technology as much as animals

But farming knowledge is only part of the equation: a marriage with engineering imagination and creativity has been vital.

Mr Harty’s real passion from childhood was in engineering, with screwdrivers and spanners as common in his schoolbag as pencils, and a degree in mechanical engineering and a PhD followed.

Mimicking nature

Understanding animals as well as farmers is essential, he says, and working with nature and cows’ natural behaviour has driven inventions and much of the research and development in Causeway.

Dairymaster has developed its own generation of milking machines

A new generation of milking machine mimicked a suckling calf rather than hand-milking as conventional machines do: the revolutionary design coming after painstaking study of calves suckling cows, using the most advanced imaging technology.

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“Mimicking what a calf actually does has allowed us to optimise the milking process, get better udder health, to make milking quicker and get more milk from those same cows,” says Mr Harty.

Innovation is vital for a place at the cutting edge of a competitive and demanding sector, he says.

“As an organisation we’ve built a very strong research and development capability in terms of a whole variety of technologies.

“That’s not only across the animal sciences and veterinary roles but also in electronics, in mobile app development and in the mechanical engineering side of things,” he says.

The cow is at the centre of everything – with near sacred status. Happy cows make happy farmers so Mr Harty says animal welfare is very important.

‘Moo monitors’

The “moo monitors” give farmers real-time updates on each cow on their phones

Less stressed cows yield more milk. The hundreds of cows around the factory all wear bright blue necklaces – nothing to do with corporate branding but instead with the company’s “moo monitor” device attached.

Mobile app technology inside the bovine jewellery presents the farmer on his phone with constant information on a cow’s health, feeding, breeding cycle and resting.

With emigration again affecting many rural communities in Ireland in hard economic times, the realisation of Ned Harty’s dream has meant jobs at home in Causeway and a cadre of locals with high-tech skills.

Ireland’s Silicon Valley for cows perhaps, created by an entrepreneurial spirit which provides local jobs while helping farmers as far away as Siberia and Japan.

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Australia to deliver ‘best’ Games

Australia has promised to build on the

“standout” Glasgow 2014

and deliver the “best” Commonwealth Games.

Jann Stuckey, the minister for the next Games on Australia’s Gold Coast in April 2018, also believes the event will “continue for a long time”.

“The Gold Coast won’t be the beginning of the end – it will be a reinvigoration,” said Stuckey.

The enthusiasm for the Games is in contrast to

fears over its future

before Glasgow 2014.

There was a lack of interest from member countries in staging the event, with no serious interest expressed to be 2022 hosts ahead of a March 2014 deadline.

Glasgow 2014 is believed to have cost more than £500m to stage and the finances needed to host future events was believed to be one of the issues.

In addition, a major dispute over governance between the Commonwealth Games Federation and its members may also have had a detrimental effect.

However, South African city Durban and Edmonton, in Canada,

eventually came forward

as potential suitors and confirmed bids for the 22nd Games must be lodged by March 2015.

Reg Milley, who is leading Edmonton’s bid to host the Games, says the event needs to be modernised to stay relevant and has suggested adding new sports to the programme.

“Do we need three-on-three basketball, beach volleyball, BMX and skateboard?” asked Milley.

BMX cycling was added to the Olympic programme for the 2008 Beijing Games, while beach volleyball became an Olympic event at Atlanta in 1996.

BMX cycling was introduced to the Olympic Games in 2008

Cycling’s governing body the UCI has also

campaigned for skateboarding

to gain inclusion at the Olympics.

Speaking to BBC World Service’s Sportsworld programme, Milley, chairman of the Edmonton 2022 bid committee, said his team had learned a lot from observing Glasgow 2014 at close quarters.

He said: “We have been talking to the young people here and in the wider Commonwealth about what they want in 2022 – the time when they will be at their peak.

“We need to renew and stay relevant.”

Edmonton hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1978, while it was last staged in Canada in Victoria in 1994.

An African city has yet to welcome the event.

The president of the South African Sports Confederation Olympic Committee, Gideon Sam, who is part of the Durban bid team, said the Commonwealth Games Federation should consider how his country staged the 2010 Fifa World Cup if they need help making their decision.

He said: “Ask Fifa what Durban can do. We have the infrastructure to deliver. This is Africa’s time. This is Durban’s time.”

The next Games will be from 4-15 April 2018 in Australia and most of the venues for the disciplines are already in place.

New arenas have been built for the badminton, wrestling, track cycling and mountain biking, while the Aquatic Centre is ready three years ahead of schedule and will host August’s Pan Pacific Swimming Championships.

The Carrara Stadium will host the athletics and opening and closing ceremonies at the 2018 Commonwealth Games

Stuckey said the country has been a “thirsty sponge” in extracting the best elements that made Glasgow 2014 successful.

“We’re absorbing all we can,” she told BBC Sport.

“Some things we’ll do differently, but for the most part – transport, security and volunteering programmes – we will be taking a leaf out of their book.”

She added: “We will raise the bar further than what Glasgow has done for the best Games yet.”

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Australian wine firm is bid target

US private equity giant KKR has launched a renewed $3.4bn Australian dollar (£1.88bn; $3.17bn) takeover bid for Australian winemaker Treasury Wines Estates.

TWE, which owns brands such as Wolf Blass, Rosemount and Lindeman’s, is the world’s biggest listed winemaker.

Last year, it sold 385 million bottles and recorded revenues of AU$1.76bn.

KKR’s new bid is a joint venture with fellow US private equity firm Rhone Group.

Rhone Group’s contribution is not known and the bid is being led by KKR.

The proposed offer is worth AU$5.20 a share and represents a 11% increase on the earlier April bid, which was rejected by TWE’s board.

KKR had a large cash influx following the $5.1bn (£3bn) sale of Oriental Brewery of South Korea to Anheuser-Busch InBev and appears thirsty for another drinks company.

The winemaker’s board has urged shareholders not to throw out the new proposal.

It said in a statement: “The board of TWE, together with its advisers, has concluded, based on the revised proposal, that it is in the interests of its shareholders to engage further with KKR and Rhone.”

TWE has a turbulent history and is currently undergoing restructuring that will see 175 job cuts.

It formed in 1995 as the wine division of Australia’s Foster’s group, brewers of the eponymous beer. However, continuing losses led to it being demerged in 2011.

Recent results have been disappointing, with volume falls in Australia, the result of risky price strategy and underwhelming sales in the China the result of government austerity.

In June last year, the group was forced to destroy AU$34m worth of unsellable wine as a result of disappointing US sales.

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Asylum group removed from Australia

The group were only moved to mainland Australia after they had spent a month being held at sea

Australia has sent 157 Tamil asylum seekers to the Pacific island of Nauru for processing after they refused to meet Indian officials.

The group were held at sea for a month after their boat, which set sail from India, was intercepted in June.

They were moved to Australia’s mainland to meet Indian officials but they refused to discuss their claims.

The Tamils set sail from Pondicherry in India in June but are thought to be from Sri Lanka.

After being landed in Australia, they have been held at the Curtin Immigration Detention Centre in a remote region of Western Australia.

Only four members of the large group, which includes 50 children, were allowed to talk to lawyers

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the group, including 50 children, would either be resettled in Nauru or deported to Sri Lanka.

“If they are not found to be a refugee they will go back to Sri Lanka, not India. Going back to India, where they are likely to have family and friends, is no longer an option,” he said.

Lawyers representing many of the group condemned the transfer as “a deliberate move to prevent legal scrutiny”.

Hugh de Kretser, director of the Human Rights Law Centre, said he had “grave concerns for their mental health” after being held at sea “in windowless rooms for at least 21 hours a day”.

He said lawyers had sought to talk to the group about their cases but had only been able to speak to four of them in brief telephone interviews.

‘The safest thing to do’

Australia changed its policy on unauthorised boats in December to crack down on people-smuggling.

Under the new policy, all asylum-seekers arriving by boat are sent to Nauru and Papua New Guinea for processing and resettlement, even if they are found to be refugees.

The Australian government says its aim is to save lives by preventing people getting on dangerous boats but rights groups have criticised conditions in detention camps.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott defended the transfer, saying he was confident it was safe to send people to Nauru.

“If we are interested in safety, and we must be, the safest thing to do for everyone is to stop the boats because as long as the boats keep coming, the drownings will keep happening,” he said.

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Australian pair abandon Down’s baby

Six-month-old Gammy has Down’s Syndrome and a life-threatening congenital heart condition

A campaign for a baby with Down’s Syndrome left with his surrogate Thai mother by an Australian couple has raised over $120,000 (£70,000).

The six-month-old boy, named Gammy, also has a congenital heart condition and needs urgent medical treatment.

Pattaramon Chanbua was left to care for him after his Australian parents only wanted his healthy twin sister.

She was paid $15,000 (£9,000) to be a surrogate for the couple, whose identities remain unknown.

Mrs Pattaramon was told of the child’s condition four months after becoming pregnant and the couple asked her to have an abortion but she refused, saying it was against her Buddhist beliefs.

The 21-year-old, who already has two children, says she cannot afford to pay for the expensive treatment to deal with his life-threatening heart condition.

“The money that was offered was a lot for me. In my mind, with that money, one, we can educate my children, we can repay our debt,” she told Australia’s ABC broadcaster.

Thai newspaper Thairath published Gammy’s story last week and an online campaign to raise money for his treatment was launched shortly afterwards.

So far hundreds of people have donated more than $120,000 (£70,000) towards the fund’s $150,000 (£90,000) target.

‘Horrible neglect!’

There were also dozens of messages of support for Gammy and her mother, and several expressing outrage at the Australian couple’s actions.

“May this selfish and heartless couple be exposed and shamed for this horrible neglect!” one comment read.

A spokesman for Australia’s foreign affairs department told the AFP news agency it was “concerned” by the reports and was in consultation with Thai authorities over surrogacy issues.

Tares Krassanairawiwong, a Thai health official, said it was illegal to pay for surrogacy in Thailand.

“Surrogacy can be done in Thailand but it has to comply with the laws. A surrogate has to be related to the intended parents and no money can be involved.”

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Broods: New Zealand’s next pop export

Broods are Caleb and Georgia Nott, aged 21 and 19, from Nelson in New Zealand

Broods only started writing music together last year, but the brother-sister duo are being tipped as New Zealand’s next big musical exports. They speak to the BBC about talent contests, Grammy awards and growing up in public.

“Try not to ramble. Do not use the word journey. Never say it.”

Caleb Nott is breaking the first rule of media training: You don’t talk about media training.

“We’ve had the training, but we didn’t listen,” he says. “We just say whatever.”

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Start Quote

Our mum’s kept a scrapbook ever since we started playing music”

End Quote
Caleb Nott

His sister Georgia tries to steer the conversation back on track.

“Media training is cool,” she says. “It gets you thinking.

“But we still suck.”

The candour is disarming, but it disguises the fact that the Notts – aka indie-pop newcomers Broods – are old hands at meeting the press.

They gave their first interview when Georgia was just 14, after an early incarnation of their band entered a talent show at a shopping centre in their hometown of Nelson, New Zealand.

“We always wanted to work together as musicians and it felt like the right time,” says Georgia

“Mum made us do it!” laughs Georgia. “She entered us without even telling us!”

Playing a cover of KT Tunstall’s Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, the siblings scooped first prize – $500 (£250) cash and a $1,000 (£500) voucher from the mall.

More importantly, their confidence got a turbo boost.

“I knew that I loved singing, but I didn’t realise that other people loved my singing,” says Georgia. “I was like, ‘OK, maybe I should get going.’”

A brief stint in indie band The Peasants followed, but the duo decided to go it alone after finding the seven-piece stifling.

“A really big problem we found in bigger groups [is the] competitiveness,” says Caleb.

“Everyone is competing to add something, whether it’s absolute crap or not. In this project, if you’ve got nothing, it’s all good. Whoever’s got the mojo that day, you just back them up.”

The siblings found their mojo pretty quickly – mining a rich seam of understated, melancholy electro-pop which, in turn, prompted the band’s pun-tastic name.

“Broods refers to the fact that we’re siblings, and that out music is very much inspired by us brooding,” says Georgia.

“The first time we performed as Broods I had no idea what I was doing,” says Caleb. “I played almost every song completely wrong.”

The moniker seems obvious in retrospect, but the band went through “so many bad ones” before settling on it, Caleb says.

“One of them was ‘Why July?’ because Georgia and I and our other two sisters are all born in July.”

“We even thought it’d be funny to call the EP Dirty October,” he grimaces, picturing his parents doing things children should never picture their parents doing.

Thankfully, sense prevailed and the band’s debut EP was given the sensible (if somewhat predictable) title Broods EP.

One of the last songs they completed was Bridges, a lonely piano ballad that plunges into a swirling synth chorus, as Georgia sings: “We’re burning all the bridges now, ‘Cause it was sink or swim, and I went down, down, down.”

Little goes a long way

The band sneaked it onto Soundcloud late last year and watched, astonished, as the play count span so fast it blurred.

“It was pretty crazy because we literally put it up one day and it was being talked about on blogs the next,” says Georgia. “We were like, ‘Damn, we’d better finish the EP!’”

Luckily, the band were working with someone who had witnessed this sort of instant acclaim before: Joel Little, the guiding hand behind New Zealand’s other hot pop export, Lorde.

The 31-year-old, a former singer in pop punk band Goodnight Nurse, steered Broods towards a darker aesthetic, working on their demos at the same time as he produced Lorde’s Grammy-winning debut, Pure Heroine.

“He’s been a huge part of the band. As big a part as we are,” says Caleb.

“Not just as a musician, but as a mentor,” adds Georgia, not for the first time finishing her sibling’s sentence.

“He’s an older brother who’s been through it all. He’s one of the main people we go to for advice, not just about the songs we write but the things we go through as musicians.”

Broods affectionately call the producer their “musical father”, and keep his ego in check following a double Grammy win, for Lorde’s Royals, earlier this year.

“He’d like to be a badass but he can’t,” says Georgia, noting that Little will try to settle disagreements in the studio by casually saying, “Eh, do any of you guys know I won a Grammy?”

“He’d love to be one of those [arrogant] people like Kanye West,” adds Georgia, “but he’s too nice.”

“The Grammy’s very heavy, but it look less impressive than I thought it was going to be,” Caleb adds.

“I thought there’d be hardcore detailing on there but no, it looks like something you’d get from the trophy store.”

Lorde and her co-writer/producer Joel Little accepted their “unimpressive” Grammy in January

On the strength of their first EP, Broods signed to Polydor Records in Europe and Capitol Records in the US, and have been piecing together their debut album – Evergreen – amid a whirlwind of interviews, concerts and video shoots.

But rather than being stressed out by the schedule, they say it streamlines their songwriting.

“Because we’re so busy and so tight on time, we have to just smash out the stuff that inspires us and let go of anything that doesn’t,” says Georgia.

“But I think that’s better – if you have a song that isn’t working, just flush it down the toilet.”

One song that escaped the lavatorial graveyard was Never Gonna Change, a melodramatic break-up ballad, in which Georgia accuses her lover of “pushing down on my shoulders and emptying my lungs”.

“I remember when I wrote those lyrics,” the singer says. “I was at work, on a computer and I’d just broken up with my boyfriend and I was so gutted… I felt like all the air had come out of me. So I wrote those lyrics and kept going on it, even when I was supposed to be working.”

Caleb picks up the story: “And then they got back together and have been together for over a year.

“It was a very short break-up, but we got a good song out of it. In the future, I’ll be like, ‘Jake, can you please break up with her just briefly next week? We need a song.’”

The band’s debut single reached the top 10 in their native New Zealand

It’s not the only song to be fuelled by anxiety and separation. The band’s latest single, Mother and Father, was triggered by 19-year-old Georgia moving out of her childhood home.

“I don’t want to wake up lonely,” she sings over a strident synth beat, “I don’t want to just be fine”.

“The first time our mother heard it, she cried,” Georgia says.

“We were playing with Ellie Goulding, and the last show was in Christchurch in New Zealand. It was the first time our parents had seen us play live and I dedicated that song to them. Mum was like ‘Waaaaaa!’”

But Pauline Nott has no regrets about pushing her offspring into the limelight.

“Our mum’s kept a scrapbook ever since we started playing music,” says Caleb. “There’s newspaper cuttings and everything.”

“Oh, the photos,” cringes Georgia. “Why?”

Her face momentarily flushes red – but the embarrassment explains why they’ve ignored the media training – when your baby steps are catalogued online, you can’t deny your past.

“When we first started out we were so, so scared about what we should be saying,” Georgia admits. “Are we supposed to be like this? Are we supposed to be like that?

“Then we came to the realisation that people don’t want the ‘fake us’. They just want to see who we are, so we don’t have to try that hard.

“Random facts, that’s all we talk about. And that’s how we’ve got around the nerves.”

Mother and Father is available now. Broods’ debut album is due later this year.

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Australia’s head coach suspended

The head coach of Australian athletics has been suspended for publicly criticising his team’s

Olympic 100 metres hurdles champion

Sally Pearson.

Eric Hollingsworth accused Pearson of setting a bad example by not appearing at the team camp last week.

His comments came 24 hours before Pearson begins the defence of her Commonwealth title.

“We condemn in the strongest terms his disparaging comments,” said Australia Athletics president David Grace.

According to reports, Hollingsworth and Pearson had a falling-out after the

world indoor championships

in Poland in March, when the hurdler won silver, and have not talked since.

In the statement which prompted his suspension, Hollingsworth said: “Sally is the team captain and there’s a reasonable expectation she’d be in the camp ahead of something as major as the Commonwealth Games. Her no-show sets a bad example to the entire national team.”

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Australia approves $15.5bn coal mine

Critics fear the mine project will have an indirect impact on the Great Barrier Reef

Australia has approved a $15.5bn (£9bn) coal project, despite concern over its potential environmental impact.

The Carmichael project in Queensland would include one of the world’s biggest coal mines and a new railway.

It would be overseen by the Indian mining company Adani, which has already won approval to build a new coal port terminal at Abbott Point in Queensland.

But critics have voiced concern over local water use and possible indirect impact on the Great Barrier Reef.

The decision to approve the Carmichael project, which will dig up and transport about 60m tonnes of coal a year for export, mostly to India, was announced on Monday.

Adani is yet to make a final commitment to the project, which would be biggest coal mine ever proposed for Australia.

Environmental impacts

Situated in the Galilee Basin in the central Queensland region, the Carmichael project would include open cut and underground mines.

Coal would be taken from the new mines by rail to Abbott Point coal port north of Bowen.

There are concerns that the mine, which will require some 12 billion litres of water every year, would drain groundwater supplies in the Galilee Basin.

But Australia’s Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the approval had been tied to 36 “strict” conditions focused on conserving groundwater.

Separately, environmentalists are also concerned about extensions to the deepwater port at Abbott Point, where Adani already has approval to build a coal export terminal.

In January, Australian authorities approved the dumping of dredged sediment in the Great Barrier Reef marine park as part of an Abbott Point coal port extension project.

The extension will see Abbott Point become one of the world’s biggest coal ports.

The decision was made by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority even though some scientists had urged it not to back the project, saying the sediment could smother or poison coral.

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Australia brings asylum group ashore

Scott Morrison says those who can be returned will be sent back to India

A group of 157 asylum seekers held at sea will be brought to the Australian mainland to be detained, Australia’s immigration minister says.

The group have been held at sea by customs officials for almost a month.

Rights groups had voiced serious concerns about their treatment.

The case came to light earlier this month as Australia detained a separate boat of Sri Lankan asylum seekers, screened their asylum claims at sea and returned them to Sri Lanka.

Human rights activists filed a legal challenge aimed at preventing similar handling of this second group of people.

Lawyers say the group, which departed from India, includes Sri Lankan Tamils.

Rights groups say Tamils can still face intimidation and violence in Sri Lanka, five years after the end of the civil war, which pitted the majority Sinhalese Sri Lankan military against Tamil separatists.

Under international treaties, Australia cannot return people to places where they might face persecution. UN refugee body UNHCR has also expressed concern about the fairness of on-water screening of asylum claims.

Earlier this month, Australia returned a boat of asylum seekers to Sri Lanka

‘Will not settle’

Australian officials have not revealed where the group were being held.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday that – following talks with Indian officials – they would be brought to Australia.

Consular officials from the Indian High Commission would be given access to determine identities and “arrange where possible the return of any persons to India”.

India would also consider taking non-nationals who were Indian residents, he said.

It was not clear what might happen to those who did not fall into this category, nor was the extent to which asylum claims would be assessed addressed.

But Mr Morrison said no members of the group would be allowed to settle in Australia.

He declined to comment on where the group would be detained but local reports say they are being transferred to the Curtin detention centre via the Cocos Islands.

‘Prolong suffering’

The move is an apparent set-back for the government, which enforces tough policies aimed at ending the arrival of asylum boats.

Australia detains all those who arrive by boat. In recent months detainees have been processed offshore, in camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Those found to be refugees will be settled in PNG and Nauru, not Australia.

Reports have also emerged in recent months of Australia towing boats back to Indonesia, the most common embarkation point.

The government says the aim is to save lives by preventing people getting on dangerous boats. But refugee advocates and the UN have voiced increasing concern about the policies, with severe criticism of conditions in Australia’s detention camps.

Responding to Mr Morrison’s announcement, Amnesty International said the development showed that “stranding a boatload of people in the middle of the sea, in an effort to ‘stop the boats’, has achieved nothing”.

“All it has done is prolong and exacerbate the suffering of more than 150 asylum seekers and their families,” said Graeme McGregor, the group’s refugee campaign co-ordinator.

All asylum seekers must have the opportunity to undergo a “full, fair and rigorous” assessment for refugee status, he said.

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