Ardern not quit­ting on refugees

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE - VER­NON SMALL IN MANILA

New Zealand is to give $3 mil­lion to help look af­ter refugees on Pa­pua New Guinea’s Manus Is­land pend­ing their re­set­tle­ment.

New Zealand has of­fered to take 150 of the refugees, but Aus­tralia’s Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull has so far re­fused, though he has left the of­fer ‘‘on the ta­ble’’.

He has said he first wants to work through an of­fer from the United States to take 1250 of the refugees, but Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern has pressed him to take up the New Zealand of­fer.

She said New Zealand would work with PNG and agen­cies like the Red Cross to meet the needs of the refugees while they re­mained on the is­land.

That had been talked through with Australian of­fi­cials who are ‘‘pre­sid­ing over the process’’.

‘‘There is no other way for us to fur­ther this of­fer than via Aus­tralia,’’ she said in an ap­par­ent re­jec­tion of calls, in­clud­ing from sup­port party the Greens, to deal di­rectly with PNG.

The stand­off has caused ris­ing ten­sions be­tween the two coun­tries, as Aus­tralia has come un­der pres­sure over what has been de­scribed as a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis on Manus.

The United Na­tions refugee agency and the Australian Se­nate have called on Turn­bull to take up the New Zealand of­fer.

She said once the US of­fer had been in place there would still be more that needed to be re­set­tled, but that was a mat­ter for Aus­tralia.

Mean­while, af­ter the talks with Turn­bull about the refugees on Tues­day, Ardern re­jected ear­lier me­dia re­ports that she had been snubbed.

She had sought a ‘‘sub­stan­tive’’ meet­ing – fol­low­ing dis­cus­sions on the topic in Aus­tralia, and short con­ver­sa­tions at Apec in Viet­nam and on Mon­day in Manila, but it ap­peared a longer meet­ing might not be granted.

But she said she had never had a re­quest for a con­ver­sa­tion de­clined by Turn­bull.

The talks in Manila dur­ing the East Asia Sum­mit on Tues­day lasted 15 to 20 min­utes. Of­fi­cials had also met.

‘‘I can tell you that New Zealand’s of­fer re­mains on the ta­ble. It re­mains on the ta­ble be­cause the need re­mains.

‘‘We be­lieve we have a role to play as a mem­ber of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity but also as neigh­bours to Aus­tralia to of­fer our sup­port to find­ing res­o­lu­tion to this sit­u­a­tion,’’ Ardern said.

Of­fi­cials would con­tinue to work closely ‘‘so that we are pre­pared in the in­stance that Aus­tralia will take up the of­fer. That is more progress than we have had on the of­fer in a num­ber of years.’’

She said New Zealand ac­cepted it would take some time to process those on Manus and Nauru – up to five months – so pre­par­ing now was im­por­tant.

Jacinda Ardern

Win­ston Peters

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