Why Turnbull rejected NZ offer to resettle 150 refugees
MAY 9 2016
By Frank Brennan SJ
In February when visiting New Zealand, Malcolm Turnbull rejected New Zealand’s offer to take up to 150 refugees a year from the Australian caseload (whether onshore or offshore). Again last week when the PNG Supreme Court struck down the Manus Island arrangement, Turnbull rejected the offer saying, ‘Settlement in a country like New Zealand would be used by the people smugglers as a marketing opportunity.’
In early May, Mr Dutton told the Parliament: ‘We will work with the Nauruan authorities and with the PNG authorities to provide opportunities for people there who have been found to be refugees—in the case of PNG, to integrate into Papua New Guinea society, or, on Nauru, to either stay on Nauru or move to Cambodia. We are working on third-country settlement options, but we need to structure any arrangement in such a way that it will not create a pull factor or an opportunity for people smugglers to get back into business.’
This just shows how irrational and callous is the present Australian policy (which enjoys bipartisan support in the Parliament). When John Howard instituted the first Pacific Solution he was only too happy to accept New Zealand’s offer with 131 asylum seekers from the Tampa being dispatched immediately to New Zealand. Now we’re being told that proven refugees who headed to Australia by boat could never be offered resettlement in a country like New Zealand. The only options left are not options at all, and the government knows that.
This probably explains the exasperation of UNHCR which has now said: ‘There is no doubt that the current policy of offshore processing and prolonged detention is immensely harmful. There are approximately 2000 very vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. These people have already been through a great deal, many have fled war and persecution, some have already suffered trauma. Despite efforts by the Governments of Papua New Guinea and Nauru, arrangements in both countries have proved completely untenable.’
So we are to set into an election with the government in caretaker mode having no policy solution whatever for the 850 men being detained illegally in Papua New Guinea, and with the Labor Opposition offering no alternative to this ‘completely untenable’ arrangement. It’s a disgrace. Mr Turnbull thinks refugee advocates are being misty-eyed. That’s better than being willfully blind.