26 Oct 2018

NZ confirms refugee offer is 150 each year

1:26 pm on 26 October 2018

The New Zealand government has confirmed its offer to resettle refugees from Australian offshore detention is for 150 per year.

Refugees protest in the unfinished West Lorengau Transit Centre, 27-11-17.

Manus Island detainees Photo: supplied

The offer has been consistently portrayed by New Zealand news services as only being for the resettlement of 150 refugees.

In contrast, some Australian media companies correctly describe the offer as being for 150 each year.

Confirmation was given by both the offices of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Immigration Minister Iain Lees Galloway.

The prime minister's office noted New Zealand's postition had remained consistent throughout and that any misunderstanding was on the part of the media.

It explained the offer to take 150 refugees would apply every year until either New Zealand rescinded the offer or Australia no longer had any people subject to its Offshore Processing legislation.

RNZ Pacific was directed to a joint statement made by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in February 2013 in which the nature of the offer was first made public.

The Australian government has not taken up the offer since it was made in 2013, arguing that the refugees would be able to use New Zealand as a back door to Australia.

But with it soon to become a minority government, it said it would accept the New Zealand offer if opposition MPs support its bill to ban all refugees held offshore from ever returning to Australia.

The Australian Labor and Green Parties said they would only support a ban that applied to refugees settled in New Zealand.

Last week, the New Zealand Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, said such a ban would create a second class of New Zealand citizenship.

But on Tuesday, Ms Ardern said the offer would still stand if the refugees were banned from Australia by Australian law.

Mr Lees Galloway said New Zealand was ready to resettle the first cohort of 150 this year.

Children outside RPC3 tents.

Children outside RPC3 tents on Nauru Photo: Refugee Action Coalition

Refugees on Nauru and Manus Island and some of their advocates say politicians should support the ban in exchange for the refugees being resettled in safe countries.

However, Australia's Refugee Action Coalition has urged Australian politicians not to support the ban which the UN refugee agency has described as discriminatory.

New Zealand's annual refugee intake is 1000 per year which will increase to 1500 in July 2020.

It is estimated between 1300 and 1500 refugees and asylum seekers are currently living in exile in Manus and Nauru.

About 300 refugees from offshore detention have so far gone to America under a deal for the United States to resettle up to 1250.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs