January 24, 2018

Main » Prime Minister Turnbull rejects NZ's offer to take Manus Island asylum seekers

Prime Minister Turnbull rejects NZ's offer to take Manus Island asylum seekers

06 November 2017

About 600 men have barricaded themselves inside the camp on remote Manus island in Papua New Guinea, defying efforts by Australia and PNG to shut it. Food, running water and medical services were cut off by Australia four days ago.

"Australia deny to give our fundamental rights such as water and food", said Adam.

"We thank New Zealand for making an offer, we are not taking it up at this time".

The government is reluctant to resettle refugees in New Zealand because it believes that will encourage asylum seekers to again attempt to reach Australia by boat.

Ms Ardern said on Sunday she understood the Turnbull government had prioritised the USA agreement, but described her own offer as "genuine". Australia wants them to move to new accommodation units but the men fear more attacks by locals, who are opposed to their presence on the island. "We will not have our immigration program, our sovereignty, our borders, outsourced to people-smugglers", he said.

Labour leader Bill Shorten has called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to consider New Zealand's offer to take 150 refugees from the camps on Manus and Nauru.

United Nations rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news conference in Geneva on Friday about the "unfolding humanitarian emergency" in the Manus island center, where asylum seekers have been reportedly digging wells to try to find water. Among them are about 90 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, about 200 men from Iran, and others from Afghanistan, Somalia and Pakistan.

Her Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, however said Canberra preferred to work through an existing refugee swap deal he negotiated with former U.S. President Barack Obama past year.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reiterated her offer to take 150 asylum seekers during the meeting Sunday, an offer which has been on the table since 2013. "They force us to starve".

Australia has recognized that numerous asylum seekers are refugees who can not return to their homelands, but it refuses to resettle anyone who tries to reach the country by boat in a policy it credits with dissuading such risky ocean crossings. "You can't keep political hostages".

"I acknowledge that, while New Zealand has not had to contend with these issues on our shores, it's hard to ignore the human face of this situation and nor should it be ignored", wrote Ardern.

'We should give consideration to what New Zealand is offering, ' he told Sky News on Sunday.

So far, 54 refugees have been resettled in the US.

Prime Minister Turnbull rejects NZ's offer to take Manus Island asylum seekers