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Chinese asylum seekers choose Australia over New Zealand

A group of Chinese asylum seekers have been detained by Australian authorities after abandoning plans to sail to New Zealand.

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Rescuers check the wreckage of a people smuggler's boat seen half submerged after being towed near the coast of Puger village in East Java province on Dec. 21, 2011. Indonesian police arrested eight people December 22 in connection with an overloaded boat carrying 250 asylum seekers that capsized en route to Australia, as the confirmed death toll reached 90. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

A group of Chinese asylum seekers have been detained by Australian authorities after abandoning plans to sail to New Zealand.

The 10 — including men, women and two children — claim to be members of China's outlawed Falun Gong spiritual group, according to the Australian Associated Press.

They are believed to have left Malaysia a month ago on a yacht bound for NZ but issued a distress call at the weekend and were picked up in Australian waters and taken to Darwin.

The group said they planned to resupply, continue their voyage and seek asylum in NZ, which does not have mandatory immigration detention, AAP wrote.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Tuesday in televised remarks that as the group had not applied for asylum in Australia, she had no power to detain them.

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The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said it would be too dangerous for the group to attempt to cross the Tasman Strait and urged them to apply for asylum in Australia, Agence France-Presse reported.

The group has since decided to ditch the plan and instead seek asylum in Australia — a decision one conservative Australian lawmaker said amounted to "country shopping." quoted opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison as saying the group's decision indicated that asylum seekers were now "country shopping" before making claims for asylum.  

"I think what it highlights is that we have occasions now where people ... are in the business of country shopping when it comes to where they may seek to make their claim," Morrison said. 

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Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, however, said he was relieved by the group's decision.

"That's a good outcome in that it means that they won't be undertaking yet again another further dangerous boat journey," he told ABC Television.

The group will now be processed by the Australian authorities as any other asylum seekers would be.

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