NEW DELHI: India on Saturday said it will take back all its citizens, detained onboard a boat seized by Australia, but a decision on other nationals will be taken as per international law and convention after ascertaining their identity.
A Home Ministry spokesperson said as per current policy, India will take back its own nationals, detained onboard a boat seized by the Australian authorities in the last week of June this year, provided the consular access clearly determines their origin.
However, in case of other nationals, decision would be taken as per international law and convention after ascertaining their identity, the spokesperson said.
The government's reaction came after Australia's Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who was in New Delhi last week and had met Home Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, said that India has agreed to take back its citizens and would even consider taking non-citizen residents such as Sri Lankans.
"We have seen press reports on briefings by Australian Minister of Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison on the issue of 157 persons who are held up at sea off the shores of Australia and his interactions with Home Minister and External Affairs Minister in New Delhi on July 23.
"India has a policy of not supporting illegal migration either into India or anywhere outside India. During the visit of Minister Morrison to India, the Indian authorities have clearly conveyed to the Australian side that the first requirement is to provide consular access to Indian High Commission officials in Australia to the persons," a Home Ministry statement said.
It further said India's policy is to accept return of Indian citizens and other persons whose return it is obligated to accept under applicable Indian domestic law.
"As per current policy, India will take back its own nationals provided the consular access clearly determines their origin," it said.
During the meeting with Morrison, Singh and Swaraj had asked him to provide consular access to 157 people whose boat was seized by Australia and asked him to ensure that no harm is caused to any of the detainees.
A group of 157 asylum seekers, including Sri Lankan Tamils, were held at sea for weeks by Australia. The group, including women and children were now being transferred to the Cocos Islands, and then would be flown to Curtin detention centre in remote Western Australia, media reports said.