Australia finally accepts New Zealand’s offer to take refugees

A view of a dwelling at refugee Camp Four on the Pacific island of Nauru.

2022-03-24 07:42:21

In a major about-turn, Australia has accepted New Zealand’s long-standing offer to take 150 refugees a year for three years from detention centres in the Pacific.

A view of a dwelling at refugee Camp Four on the Pacific island of Nauru.

Australia’s refugee Camp Four on the Pacific island of Nauru.
Photo: AFP or licensors

The deal aims to rehome some of the thousands of refugees who have arrived in Australia by boat, and been placed in detention in line with the country’s policy.

The offer was first made by former prime minister John Key in 2013 – and repeated by subsequent leaders.

Australian authorities have rejected the proposal until now, citing concerns that the refugees could claim Kiwi citizenship and then travel into Australia freely.

Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews says the arrangement does not apply to anyone who attempts to illegally enter the country by boat in the future.

Australia’s Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo last month acknowledged there was an “in principle” deal to accept the offer.

Kris Faafoi

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

New Zealand Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said at the time that there were still a few details to be sorted out, but it was a bottom line that refugees would go through the same UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) process as other incoming refugees.

This would ensure they would undergo assessment and screening.

He said today that the long-standing offer reflected New Zealand and Australia’s close relationship.

“New Zealand has a long and proud history of refugee resettlement and this arrangement is another example of how we are fulfilling our humanitarian international commitment. We are pleased to be able to provide resettlement outcomes for refugees who would otherwise have continued to face uncertain futures.”

Amnesty Australia says there were still 112 people in the Nauru centre, and 104 in Papua New Guinea. There were also 1174 living in the community after being brought to Australia for medical reasons, with half in community detention and the remainder on six-month visas.

Some 4174 people were detained by Australia after unauthorised arrival by boat in 1999 and 2000.

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