Australia should accept New Zealand offer to resettle detained refugees - UNHCR


  • World
  • Tuesday, 14 Nov 2017

An undated image released November 13, 2017 shows detainees staging a protest inside the compound at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea. Refugee Action Coalition/Handout via REUTERS

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The United Nations refugee agency on Tuesday urged Australia to accept New Zealand's offer to resettle 150 refugees from an abandoned Australian-run detention centre in Papua New Guinea, as about 450 men remain barricaded inside without food or water.

The asylum seekers have been holed up inside the centre for the past two weeks defying attempts by Australia and Papua New Guinea to close the facility, saying they fear for their safety if moved to transit centres.

With many detainees complaining of illness bought about by the unsanitary conditions inside the camp, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) urged Australia to allow 150 of them to resettle in New Zealand.

"We urge Australia to reconsider this and take up the offer," Nai Jit Lam, deputy regional representative at the UNHCR told Reuters. The asylum seekers are mainly from Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Syria.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this month rejected a refugee resettlement offer from his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern, preferring instead to work through an existing refugee swap deal he negotiated with former U.S. President Barack Obama last year.

Under that deal, up to 1,250 asylum seekers detained by Australia in Papua New Guinea and Nauru in the South Pacific could be resettled in the United States in return for Australia accepting refugees from Central America. So far, the United States has accepted only 54.

Despite Turnbull rejecting the offer, Ardern this week said the offer remained on the table and that she would seek a second meeting with Turnbull to discuss the "unacceptable" situation inside the Manus island detention centre.

Running water and electricity to the Manus island detention centre were disconnected two weeks ago after Australian security withdrew and the camp closed on Oct. 31. The centre had been declared illegal by a Papua New Guinea Court.

Papua New Guinea has threatened to forcibly move the men if they remain inside the centre. It has set three deadlines but all have passed largely without incident.

Australia's "Sovereign Borders" immigration policy, under which it refuses to allow asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores, has been heavily criticised by the United Nations and human rights groups but has bipartisan political support in Australia.

Australia says allowing asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores would only encourage people smugglers in Asia and see more people risk their lives trying to sail to Australia.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry)

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3
Join our Telegram channel to get our Evening Alerts and breaking news highlights
   

Next In World

India reports 39,742 new COVID-19 cases in last 24 hours: government
Australians may face longer lockdown after "reckless" mass protests
First task for Afghan forces is to slow Taliban's momentum -Pentagon chief
Hundreds protest ouster of Guatemalan anti-graft crusader
Brazilians take to streets again to demand Bolsonaro's impeachment
Greek police clash with protesters in rally against mandatory vaccinations
Iran condemns U.N. criticism of deaths during protests in Khuzestan
At least six Cameroonian soldiers killed in raid by Islamist insurgents
Russian, Tajik defence ministers discuss response to Afghan conflict risks - TASS
Crowdfunding raises over 30,000 euros for German flood victims

Stories You'll Enjoy


Vouchers