Manus stand-off: 'We need to find a compassionate solution'

8:13 am on 3 November 2017

The new immigration minister has reassured refugees on Manus Island that New Zealand will do all it can to help ease the crisis.

The 94th day of protest in the Manus Island detention centre.

The 94th day of protest in the Manus Island detention centre. Photo: supplied

Up to 700 refugees are refusing to leave the detention centre in Papua New Guinea, which was officially closed by the Australian government on Tuesday.

They fear for their safety if they move to new accommodations in a nearby township and have begged for help from New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will meet the Australian leader Malcolm Turnbull Sunday and the Papua New Guinea detention centre is expected to be high on the agenda.

Canberra has so far rejected New Zealand's offer to take 150 refugees because if they gain citizenship, they would then have the right to live in Australia.

Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway  20 June 2017

New Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Iain Lees-Galloway, the new Minister of Immigration, told Morning Report the current stand-off was not an ideal situation and a compassionate solution needed to be found quickly.

"That's ultimately in the hands of the Australian government but our offer to take 150 of the refugees is still on the table.

"I really hope Australia does take up our offer. We're here to help."

He said Australia faced different challenges than New Zealand did, but he hoped Mr Turnbull would take Ms Ardern's comments on board when they meet this weekend.

The asylum seekers are refusing to leave, despite having no food, electricity or running water because they say they are at risk of being attacked by hostile islanders.

A Manus Island refugee

A Manus Island refugee Photo: Behrouz Boochani

One refugee on the island said Australia was torturing the men and their only hope was New Zealand.

New Zealand's first former refugee MP Golriz Ghahraman said she hoped Australia accepted New Zealand's longstanding offer to take the 150 refugees.

She said 150 was the comfortable number that could be housed at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.

"My understanding is from that sector is that with bunking we could take it up to 250, and of course they do require wraparound services. The offer is there, so I think if they raise it seriously and it is accepted, that's 150-250 lives."

Ms Ghahraman said she was heartened to think Ms Ardern would raise the issue with her Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, when they meet in Sydney on Sunday.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs