Ardern not quitting on refugees
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.