The 157 Tamil asylum seekers who were held on a Customs ship for almost a month are economic migrants and do not face persecution if they are sent back to India, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says.
The asylum seekers, including 37 children, are at the centre of a High Court challenge and have been transferred to Western Australia's Curtin Immigration Detention Centre.
Indian consular officials will be at the detention centre to help determine identity and residency, but Mr Morrison says asylum claims for the group will not be processed.
"I would be surprised if anyone was seriously suggesting that people were being persecuted in India by the Indian government, apart from [Greens senator] Sarah Hanson-Young, which is just an absurd and offensive claim." he told AM.
Mr Morrison described India as a safe country and a "vibrant democracy".
"If we can't take people back to India, what is next? New Zealand? India ... [is] a good partner, they're working closely with us." he said.
"They have come from India and as a result, a passage to Australia here is nothing more than an economic migration seeking to illegally enter Australia."India may not take any of the Tamils back
India's high commissioner to Australia Biren Nanda says India has not been officially asked yet to interview the 157 Tamils at Curtin, although he says staff are ready.
He says India will take back any of the asylum seekers who are Indian nationals.
But it is not known how many people will be sent back, and the high commissioner has indicated it could be none.
"First we have to make a determination of who these people are," he has told The World Today. "For all we know there may not be Indian nationals involved.
"We do not know whether the people have come from India or whether they have been living in camps from India."
India has previously said it would consider the cases of any Indian residents.
But the high commissioner says Tamil people who live in Indian refugee camps are generally refugees, not residents.
"We have a large number of Tamil refugees in India, it is a well known fact, and they have been living in camps and some of them have voluntarily agreed to go back to Sri Lanka."
Mr Nanda has indicated no one will be forced back.
"Generally speaking we do not repatriate anybody against his will."
Greens leader Christine Milne says the asylum seekers' claims have not been properly assessed.
"Scott Morrison says a lot of things, and a lot of them are baseless," she told reporters in Hobart.
"Both he and Tony Abbott seem to think that Sri Lanka is some sort of democracy these days. In fact, there are people disappearing in Sri Lanka as I speak."High Court challenge resumes
The group of Tamils was brought ashore at the weekend and taken to the detention centre after nearly a month detained on the Customs vessel.
This sparked an urgent hearing of the High Court this afternoon.
Advocates argued that the group was detained unlawfully, with Justice Kenneth Hayne saying they may have a case for unlawful detention.
He granted approval for an application for compensation and the Government has until Thursday afternoon to file its defence case.
Mr Morrison says the Tamils did not make asylum claims to Australian officials while being held over for the past few weeks on the Customs ship, the Ocean Protector.
He says their health will be assessed today, but says they have been in good care.
The Government has refused to say exactly where they were held during this time.
The Immigration Minister says the transfer to Curtin is not related to the High Court challenge to the Tamils' detention.
"These issues are completely separate matters," he told AM.
Describing the Opposition and the Greens as "surrender monkeys", Mr Morrison told Macquarie Radio the Government was standing firm against people smugglers.
"Every time they try it on, they will know that this Government just won't send out the water taxi at the first whistle and just roll over," he said.
"The surrender monkeys in the Labor Party and Greens would have had the water taxi out there in a heartbeat."
The Minister said the transfer of the asylum seekers to an onshore detention centre was not a broken promise on offshore processing or stopping the boats.
"I think the fact there has been so much interest in this one venture - the first venture since December 19 last year - where this process has been undertaken, demonstrates the success the Government has had," he said.
Senator Milne says after recent losses in the High Court, the Immigration Minister is trying to avoid another defeat.
She says the Tamils should have been brought to Christmas Island for processing from day one.
"The Curtin detention centre was supposed to be closed because it was such an appalling facility," she said.
"It just shows that as far as Scott Morrison and the Prime Minister are concerned, it's all about chest-beating and saying nobody can land in Australia rather than dealing with people appropriately."People will go back to India: Morrison
Mr Morrison says the Indian government did not ask for anything in return for its co-operation over the asylum seekers. However, he says India must be involved in the process of identification.
"That is something for any government to do, who is the host government, who is determining their citizenship or residency. It is not for Australia to do that."
"At the end of the day, people will go back to India where India is prepared to accept them back in these circumstances, and that obviously requires co-operation and the involvement of their officials."
It is not clear what will happen to the asylum seekers if they are not found to be Indian citizens or residents.
Mr Morrison says the work of the Indian consular officials at Curtin will take some time.
"We will work through that process when we come to it, but the Government has available to it all of the options," Mr Morrison said.
The options include the offshore processing centres of Nauru and Manus Island.
Human rights lawyer David Manne, who has been asked to represent the group of asylum seekers, says they are entitled to independent legal advice.
"We must be able to allow these people to explain why they came here, to establish why they left and what they may have fled," Mr Manne said.
"It's crucial here that that happens first before any steps are taken to make them speak to authorities of any other country."
Mr Manne says he is concerned about India's involvement in processing of the Tamil asylum seekers.
"It's completely unclear what role India could properly play in this process. It's a fundamental principle of refugee law that no-one, no person, should have to deal with the authorities of another country from which they may have fled."