Another cruel twist in Australia’s refugee policy
Australia has left 300 refugees in limbo in Nauru and Papua New Guinea rather than allowing them to build new lives in New Zealand under a standing resettlement offer from the Key government. Yet immigration minister Peter Dutton continues to pursue resettlement options in poor countries like Cambodia, a policy that is far more expensive than the trans-Tasman offer. Just five people have been resettled in Cambodia under a deal that has cost Australian taxpayers $55 million.
New Zealand’s agreement to take up to 150 refugees each year from Australia’s offshore centres dates back to when Julia Gillard was prime minister. Announcing the deal in February 2013 after a meeting with her New Zealand counterpart, John Key, she said that the program would “start in 2014 and be ongoing.” The places were factored into a three-year rollingplan for refugee resettlement signed off by the NZ cabinet in June 2013.
Under the plan, New Zealand Immigration set aside 150 of the 750 resettlement places in its annual refugee quota for refugees “subject to offshore processing from Australia.” Places were reserved in both 2014–15 and 2015–16, but so far none has been taken up, and the NZ government doesn’t expect they ever will be.
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