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'Aus grants asylum to Afghan, Iranian refugees'

Australia has granted asylum to 28 people from Afghanistan and Iran, in the first such move since relaxing tough rules on asylum seekers, a senior official said.

world Updated: Jan 17, 2009 09:55 IST

Australia has granted asylum to 28 people from Afghanistan and Iran, in the first such move since relaxing tough rules on asylum seekers, a senior official said.

Immigration minister Chris Evans announced late on Friday the group, including 10 children, had been allowed to settle for their own safety.

"These people clearly demonstrated a well-founded fear of persecution or death should they be returned to Afghanistan or Iran," Evans said in a statement.

He said they had been picked up as they sailed towards Australia between September and November last year, and have since been detained on Christmas Island, some 2,600 kilometres (1,612 miles) to the country's northwest.

They are the first people to be granted asylum since the centre-left government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd softened Australia's refugee policy last July.

Announcing a "more humane" approach, Rudd scrapped the automatic incarceration on arrival of asylum seekers and called for an end to the detention of children and their families, both legacies of the previous conservative government.

Rudd had already scrapped the "Pacific solution" policy under which people seeking asylum were sent to special detention centres in the tiny island nation of Nauru or the Papua New Guinea island of Manus.

Asylum seekers arriving by boat are still held at Christmas Island and their cases are reviewed every six months.

Claims by another 134 people on Christmas Island are currently under review, Evans said.