‘Australia should accept NZ offer to resettle refugees’
SYDNEY: The UN refugee agency on Tuesday urged Australia to accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees from an abandoned Australian-run detention centre in Papua New Guinea, as about 450 men remain barricaded inside without food or water.
The asylum-seekers have been holed up inside the centre for the past two weeks defying attempts by Australia and Papua New Guinea to close the facility, saying they fear for their safety if moved to transit centres.
With many detainees complaining of illness bought about by the unsanitary conditions in the camp, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) urged Australia to allow 150 of them to resettle in New Zealand.
“We urge Australia to reconsider this and take up the offer,” Nai Jit Lam, deputy regional representative at the UNHCR said.
Australia’s “sovereign borders” immigration policy, under which it refuses to allow asylum-seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores, has been heavily criticised by the United Nations and human rights groups but has bipartisan political support in Australia.
Australia says allowing asylumseekers arriving by boat to reach its shores would only encourage people smugglers in Asia and see more people risk their lives trying to sail to Australia. Two motions introduced in Australia’s parliament by the Labor and Green parties, and passed in the upper house on Tuesday, call on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to approve the New Zealand proposal.
An undated image released on Monday shows detainees staging a protest inside the compound at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea.