Home Affairs discussion with NZ on refugees is welcome
Amnesty International Australia today welcomes Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews’ acknowledgement that the department is in talks with New Zealand to resettle refugees languishing in detention.
Ms Andrews’ statement comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s visit to Queenstown earlier this week to meet with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Sporting greats and human rights advocates Craig Foster and Sonny Bill Williams as well as Amnesty’s Refugee Rights Advisor Dr Graham Thom travelled to Queenstown with Amnesty hoping to raise the issue with him directly.
In an Interview on Brisbane radio today Karen Andrews said with regards to the New Zealand offer that: “Yes, we're going to continue to look at resettlement options for these individuals… We're working through those issues now and we'll continue to do so”.
In the past, the Australian Government had refused to accept the New Zealand offer, claiming the focus remained on the US resettlement deal negotiated in 2016. But with that deal now drawing to a close, Prime Minister Scott Morrison faces increasing pressure to accept the offer.
“There are 235 people trapped offshore in PNG and Nauru, with more than one thousand living either in detention or community in Australia, with no certainty regarding their futures. The truth is that currently Australia has no plan to resolve this situation. The time to accept the New Zealand offer is now,” Dr Thom said.
Long-time refugee advocate Craig Foster said: “The recent statement is promising, but after 8 years, refugees deserve certainty. Karen Andrews and Scott Morrison need to unequivocally accept the New Zealand resettlement offer so that these innocent people can have some hope, and taxpayers have a timeline for when we can expect to end this unnecessary, wasteful and obscene cost”.
Former NZ international footballer Sonny Bill Williams said: “After $10 billion of taxpayer dollars and 8 years of suffering, people deserve some certainty. This is people's lives we’re talking about. It can’t be a passing comment”.
Information provided at Senate estimates earlier this year indicated that the US deal was drawing to a close. The deal is capped at 1,250 places. So far, 936 refugees have been resettled in the US, 418 from PNG, 395 from Nauru and 123 from Australia. A further 258 have been provisionally approved, most of whom are in Australia. This will leave nearly 1000 refugees without a viable resettlement option.