Refugees who have tried to reach Australia by boat have spent years on remote islands or held in immigration detention, which has taken a toll on their mental health.
New Zealand has announced it will welcome 450 asylum seekers and refugees detained in Australia or in its offshore detention center in Nauru under Australia’s hardline immigration policy, nine years after the rejection of his first offer.
Many refugees have been detained for years with no hope of leading a normal life in Australia.
“New Zealand has a long and proud history of resettling refugees and this arrangement is another example of how we are fulfilling our international humanitarian commitment,” said New Zealand Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi. “We are pleased to be able to provide resettlement outcomes for refugees who would otherwise have continued to face an uncertain future.”
Australia introduced tough new measures in 2013 to send all asylum seekers trying to arrive in Australia by boat to so-called offshore processing centers in Papua New Guinea (PNG) or Nauru. They were told they would never be allowed to settle in Australia even if they were found to need protection under refugee law. According to refugee groups, around 1,300 people, including people allowed to live on temporary visas in the community, currently fall into this category.
While camps in PNG and Nauru have closed, around 200 people remain in the Pacific while others were brought to Australia on a short-term medical evacuation program in 2019 and have been living in shelters ever since. facilities such as Melbourne’s Park Hotel.
New Zealand says it will take 150 refugees a year for the next three years and follow the same refugee quota program screening and assessment process used for other refugees entering the country, the statement said.
Detained refugees have long complained about the arbitrary nature of the system, with Australian authorities holding sweeping powers over their fate.
Moz Azimitabar was released from immigration detention in 2021 on a bridging visa that allows him to work, but not study, and must be renewed every six months. On Thursday, he welcomed New Zealand’s announcement.
“Today is an incredible victory for human rights and shows that the government cannot ignore people power!” he wrote on Twitter. “Today is my birthday and it’s the best gift of my life!”
New Zealand first offered to take in some of the refugees in 2013, but was repeatedly rebuffed by Australia, which then negotiated over the refugees with the United States.
The United States has taken in just under 1,000 people from processing centers, according to January data from the Refugee Council of Australia.
Critics have condemned Australia’s treatment of refugees and conditions in its detention facilities, and a public outcry over the health impact of prolonged detention has led to some being medically evacuated to Australia. Australia from the Pacific Islands.
The latest deal does not include anyone in PNG, according to a statement released by Australia.
“Offshore detention is a dark and bloody chapter in our country’s history, and its bipartisan foundation is a national disgrace,” Nick McKim, Greens Senator for the island of Tasmania, wrote on Twitter. “It took far too long for the Australian government to accept New Zealand’s offer, and the deal should have allowed for the resettlement of more people, faster.”
The government continues to insist that the policy has deterred people from making dangerous sea journeys to reach its shores, and that anyone trying to do so will not be allowed to stay.
“The arrangement does not apply to anyone attempting an illegal sea voyage to Australia in the future,” Home Secretary Karen Andrews said in a statement.
“Australia stands firm – illegal sea arrivals will not take up permanent residence here. Anyone attempting to cross our borders will be turned back or returned to Nauru.