CANBERRA, Australia, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has urged Australia to begin repatriating rejected asylum seekers to relieve the strain on its detention centers.
Richard Towle, the regional representative for the agency, told the Sydney Morning Herald most of those turned down for refugee status have been "left sitting in detention centers in Western Australia."
He said their numbers are up because of the end of the Tamil Tiger uprising in Sri Lanka and changes in how Australia assesses Afghan migrants, the newspaper reported Sunday.
"The challenge is how to find fair and humane and effective ways of allowing them to leave this country to go home," Towle said.
Thirty immigrants died Wednesday when their wooden boat hit rocks off Christmas Island, an Australian territory closer to Indonesia than to Australia that is a major detention site.