By Claire Trevett @CTrevettNZH; 8/8/13
Prime Minister John Key says an agreement to take 150 refugees from Australia each year will not include those sent to Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island detention centre. Mr Key met Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill yesterday and was briefed on the deal between Australia and PNG to expand the Manus Island detention centre to take potentially thousands of asylum seekers from Australia for processing and resettlement. Mr Key said that although some asylum seekers sent to Manus Island could be resettled in New Zealand under its annual refugee quota of 750, the Government was not considering any special regional policy or quota under the PNG agreement.
In February, New Zealand agreed to take 150 refugees processed by Australia each year as part of the annual quota of 750 to help Australia deal with its asylum seeker issue. That was before Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s three-week-old policy of redirecting asylum seekers to PNG. However, Mr Key said that would not alter New Zealand’s agreement. Mr O’Neill said yesterday that he had not asked Mr Key to take refugees and it was up to New Zealand how it dealt with its refugee policy.
“They will do as much as they can and we will do as much as we can.” Mr O’Neill said the first 140 asylum seekers had arrived on Manus Island. “Many of the asylum seekers are now requesting they want to be transported back to their country of origin. So it is having the desired effect.” He said all the asylum seekers would be dealt with according to international law and many would resettle in PNG. The issue has become central to the Australian election campaign.