THE nine-year-old Iranian Seena Akhlaqi Sheikhdost and two other orphans who survived the Christmas Island boat crash will be granted permanent refugee status, the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, has indicated.
A Senate committee has heard that funerals for the crash victims could not have been held on Christmas Island, as the opposition suggested, because there was no undertaker and no room in the cemetery.
The opposition questioned why the funerals took place in Sydney. Department officials said the Australian Federal Police had always intended to make arrangments for mainland burial.
''Christmas Island has no undertaker or anyone able to manage the funeral … the island community has a view that facilities on the island are limited and should be reserved for islanders themselves,'' the secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Andrew Metcalfe, said.
Flying 22 detainees and staff to Sydney for the funerals cost $314,000 for a plane charter and $6300 for accommodation, the Senate committee was told.
Seven bodies were repatriated to Iraq and two to Iran.
West Australian law stated that family wishes were the priority in deciding funeral arrangments, Mr Metcalfe said.
The department deputy secretary, Jackie Wilson, said victims' families had asked the federal police to hold funerals in Sydney because that was where relatives lived and the asylum seekers had hoped to settle.
Ms Wilson said the department's advice was to keep the detainees attending the funeral together which was why Seena had been returned to detention.
He will be released into community housing in Sydney this week, as will two other orphans aged eight and nine who did not attend the funeral.
Mr Bowen said yesterday his intentions were for the children to stay permanently in Australia. ''The other relatives need to be assessed and other survivors need to be assessed for their refugee status, but clearly the children need to stay in Australia and we'll be facilitating that,'' he told Channel Ten's The Circle.
The Immigration Department paid for the funerals of three asylum seekers who died in the Curtin and Villawood detention centres. But because the crash victims had not yet arrived in Australia, the federal police covered the cost of the funerals, which had been delayed by the identification process, Mr Metcalfe said.
? Ten Sri Lankan asylum seekers from the Oceanic Viking who were refused settlement on security grounds by the US will be moved to Christmas Island from Romania if Australia is unable to find another country in which it can resettle them.