NEW YORK (AP) — Australia has defended its policy to ship asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea and the remote Pacific island of Nauru for screening as more humane for the refugees.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Monday the policy was designed to deter human smuggling.
Human rights groups say it is discriminatory and asylum seekers arriving by boat could spend years in remote camps as their claims for refugee status are processed.
Carr was responding to a question at a business lunch in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
Earlier, Carr spoke on the need for Australia to have "Asia-literate policies" to profit as the continent's middle class swells.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard was due to make the speech but pulled out because of an unspecified health problem.