Australia Reluctant To Transfer Refugees To New Zealand

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Wellington was willing to take asylum seekers from Manus, Nauru

By political reporter Stephanie Anderson

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Jan. 12, 2016) – New Zealand has confirmed it is unable to accept refugees from Nauru and Manus Island this year, citing reluctance from the Australian Government.

New Zealand had offered to resettle 300 refugees from the processing centres as part of a two-year deal with Australia, signed in 2013 by former prime minister Julia Gillard.

The plan had been proposed to begin in 2014, with the annual resettlement of 150 refugees contributing to New Zealand's overall intake of 750 places each year.

But a spokesperson for the New Zealand immigration minister Michael Woodhouse said Australia has not taken up the offer and the resettlement places had instead been given to Syrian refugees.

At the time of the agreement's signing, then Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison criticised the deal, describing it as a "bandaid solution".

Mr Morrison said talks between the two countries should have focussed on border protection instead of resettlement.

"What this arrangement has the risk of doing is putting a bit of Kiwi sugar on the table for people smugglers," he said.

"What we should have been talking about is how New Zealand and Australia can be working together, through the Bali process, to beef up natural deterrents."

New Zealand's shadow foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer said that the deal was never a good one.

"John Key agreed that Australia could resettle 150 of their refugees on condition that if any boat people were coming to New Zealand then Australia would intercede," he said.

The Greens have criticised the Coalition Government for not taking up the offer.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said it was ridiculous for the Government to "dump" people seeking asylum in Cambodia instead of countries such as New Zealand.

"If the Government was actually interested in resettling people and letting them rebuild their lives it would have leapt at this opportunity," she said in a statement.

"Instead they have chosen to continue to punish men, women and children for seeking a better life."

Comment has been sought from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

'They say we will never be settled in Australia'

The news comes as refugees from Nauru plea with New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key to take them in.

In a letter, confirmed by the New Zealand government, 28 refugees said that Australia would not accept them "despite us asking them for safety".

"They say we will never be settled in Australia," it stated.

"They gave us to the Nauru Government and told us we were now their responsibility. Nauru has not given us and does not have the means to give us permanent protection or safety.

"After 30 months in mouldy tents and now in the community where we are not accepted, some of us now have travel papers which give us the freedom to leave."

The letter states that the 28 signatories have all had their claims processed and are considered refugees.

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