Australia granted temporary visas to a boatload of rescued Chinese citizens to replenish their supplies, arguing that it could not legally stop them from their scheduled path to New Zealand.
Australian coast guard officials rescued 10 Chinese nationals from the banned Falungong movement after receiving a distress signal from their yacht.
The men, who have received refugee status from the United Nations, started their journey nearly a month ago from Malaysia and were on their way to New Zealand to seek asylum. However, they exhausted all their fuel and food supplies, forcing them to seek help near the Australian port of Darwin.
When authorities reached them, the men said they would keen to continue their journey to New Zealand after refilling their supplies.
"We did not know each other until we met in Malaysia at the U.N. and then left Malaysia together by boat to go to New Zealand as refugees," one of the group told ABC radio.
The government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the men were issued the temporary travel documents because they did not ask for asylum in Australia.
Gillard said the asylum seekers had been given four days to start sailing to New Zealand.
A spokesman for New Zealand Immigration Minister Nathan Guy has expressed his government's concern about the risk for people, including children on the yacht, if they continue their hazardous voyage to their country.
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